Australian Broadcasting Corp. Mourns News Crew Killed In Desert Helicopter Crash

Paul Lockyer, cameraman John Bean and helicopter pilot, Gary Ticehurst, are believed dead after their helicopter crashed in South Australia.

SYDNEY -- Tributes from journalists and colleagues from across the Australian media poured into the Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) Friday for reporter Paul Lockyer, cameraman John Bean and helicopter pilot, Gary Ticehurst, all three  of whom are believed to be dead after the helicopter they were using to film stories around Lake Eyre in South Australia crashed on Thursday night.

"This has been the longest of nights and we fear it will be the saddest of days," said ABC managing director Mark Scott said Friday.

"Paul, Gary and John have each given decades of service to the ABC. They are passionate about their work and finding great stories from all over Australia to bring to the public.

"Our love, thoughts and prayers go out to family and friends of Paul, Gary and John at this terrible time."

Scott said the national broadcaster has never experienced such a loss in its 80 years.

"I think this is going to be devastating for the ABC. We have been going for nearly 80 years. I don't think we have ever had a day like the day we might be facing, with news of the loss of three distinguished colleagues out reporting a story,” he said.

The three were award-winning, highly experienced and long-serving ABC employees.

The ABC website said “Lockyer was one of the ABC's most experienced journalists with an award-winning career spanning more than 40 years locally and internationally. He had been a correspondent in Washington, Singapore and throughout Asia and won a Logie Award for best TV reporter.

"His work in recent years focused on regional and rural issues and his work on the devastating Queensland floods this year won universal acclaim."

Ticehurst is a legend among media pilots -- he has served the ABC for more than 25 years and was a larger-than-life figure who was known by everyone in the newsroom. He had served as the lead pilot for the ABC in Sydney since the mid-1980s and worked with search and rescue teams during the tragedy of the 1998 Sydney-Hobart Yacht race when six sailors drowned in heavy seas. He also worked as a pilot on Mission impossible 2 and The Matrix films.

Brisbane-based cameraman Bean has worked for the ABC for 20 years across a diverse range of programs in news and entertainment, including international assignments. He travelled extensively throughout Australia and the Pacific region for work and last year completed a stint in the Washington Bureau.

The tragedy is the worst to hit the ABC since four staff members died in a light plane crash west of Rockhampton in 1983.

The national broadcaster is airing a special edition of its current affairs flagship program 7.30 Friday night and has set up a web page for reports and tributes to the trio.

The three were on location filming news and features stories when the crash happened at a remote location on the northern side of Lake Eyre, in the South Australian outback.

Details of how and why the helicopter crashed are yet to be revealed.

A statement issued by the broadcaster said police had located the wreckage and are still to identify the helicopter as the ABC’s. Two people have been confirmed dead while a search remains for a third person. They are not expecting to find survivors.

In the last few years the team made a series of specials and reports on the inland drought, then the blossoming of the desert and the refilling of the vast mass of water of Lake Eyre, after good rains last year.

It’s the same phenomenon that brings the return of wildlife and an extraordinary beauty to the desert landscape, but also forced the delays to and eventual relocations of the shoot for George Miller’s Mad Max Fury Road.

Lockyer’s most recent special, Return to Lake Eyre After The Deluge first aired in February this year.