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24 October, 2021

Chopper crash 40 yrs

It is 40 years since Gilgandra locals played a crucial role in saving lives at the devastating Warrumbungle helicopter crash.

By Emily Middleton

On October 11, 1981, four men who were carrying out a survey for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, crashed into mountainous terrain, north-north-west of Mount Terrace Homestead.

Ian Mahood was killed in the crash. Pilot Alan Adamson, and passengers Leon Lim and Chris Martin survived.

It was not realised that there was anything wrong until 10:30am, when the helicopter failed to return to Coonabarabran. Homestead owner, Digger Buchanan, and his daughter, Heather, along with Ernie Haylock, located the wrecked and burnt ruins of the helicopter.

Miss Buchanan, who was a trained nurse, and Mr Haylock, stayed with the survivors while Mr Buchanan set off back to the homestead to give the alarm.

Over the next three hours, amid bleak conditions of hail, sleet and rain, Miss Buchanan did what she could to help the three badly injured men.

Police from Gilgandra, Coonabarabran and Tooraweenah attended the site. They were backed up by the Gilgandra rescue squad, wildlife officers and ambulance officers. Civilian help came from a number of residents including Digger Buchanan, Rodger Stroud, Ernie Haylock, David Schultz, and Jim Winters.

Vehicles could not get to the crash site, so the last kilometre and a half had to be tackled on foot. The Gilgandra Rescue Squad brought the men to ground level for pickup by a helicopter.

Officer in charge of Gilgandra police, sergeant Roger Smith, said the efforts of the Gilgandra rescue squad deserved high praise, particularly considering the weather and the nature of the terrain.

He said the efforts of Miss Buchanan had played a “major role in helping the seriously injured men through a crucial three-hour period.”

At the time, all three men were reported to be on the mend in Dubbo Base Hospital.

As reported in the Gilgandra Weekly at the time, “had it not been for the squad’s expertise in getting the injured to a suitable site, it is doubtful they could have been picked up by helicopter. Local state emergency services controller, Mr Noel Edgell, said all who had taken part in the exercise had done a great job under very difficult conditions.”

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