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Bell Peak North Plane Crash 28January 1970 (14 September 2014)
contributed by KevinMurgatroyd
(contact KevinMurgatroyd about this story)
BELL PEAK NORTH PLANE CRASH
28 JANUARY 1970
This account is compiled from the combined memories of Ray Hickling, Alan Broughton and Kevin Murgatroyd, three of the principals involved in the search and recovery from the beginning. It was compiled forty years after the event, and even though there were some initial differences
in the recollections of these three, each accepts that this is a fair account of their participation.
Every person who was involved in the Bell Peak saga will have his/her own version and this one is in no way definitive. There were more than thirty people involved (on the mountain, on the ground and in the air) and each will have his/her own recollection of what happened and the part each played.
Bell Peak (3375ft ) is in the highest point of the Malbon Thompson Range, almost due east of Gordonvale, and south of Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Ray Hickling was a farmer on Bennett Road south west of Bell Peak and had private pilot’s licence. Alan Broughton and Kevin Murgatroyd were teachers at the Gordonvale State High School who along with Peter Bell conducted a Bushwalking Club at the school. Alan and Peter had been to the summit of Bell Peak recently as a prelude to a school bushwalk. Kevin had been involved in organizing and leading previous searches for the Police in the Gordonvale area.
The Hickling farm was on Bennett Road Aloomba. It borders the western side of the Mulgrave River, quite close to the base of the Malbon-Thomson Range .
On Wednesday 28th of January 1970 and at approximately 9:35 p.m., Ray and his father heard the sound of crashing timber on the mountain. They both agreed that prior to the sound they had heard an aircraft. Silence followed. The night was dark but fairly clear of cloud. They relived the moment in order to estimate the direction of the sound. Their best. estimate was north east of where they stood and high up on the mountain. The likely area was Bell Peak North.
Ray phoned the control tower at the Cairns airport and advised them of what they had heard. The duty controller confirmed that he was expecting an aircraft from the south. He immediately began calling the aircraft but received no response. It was obvious that the aircraft was now missing and most likely on Bell Peak.
Following that, police and ambulance personnel arrived at Ray’s house. Apart from briefing them on what he had experienced little else was achieved that night. It was quite late when he retired. It was difficult to switch off and he doubts if he even managed one hour’s sleep.
DAY 1 THE SEARCH
At first light, Department of Civil Aviation officers were at the Hickling house. Meanwhile an airline Fokker Friendship aircraft which was on a scheduled flight south circled the Peak but reported no sighting. A Cessna 206 circled the Peak and also reported no sighting. However on the fifth circuit the pilot reported sighting a flash of something white but could not confirm what it was. Later it was learnt that what he saw was undoubtedly part of the aircraft's tail which was wedged in a tree fork. There was minimal damage to the rainforest canopy and the aircraft's path through the vegetation could not be seen from the air. Indeed the main wreckage could not be seen .It was likely that the flash of white that the pilot had seen was part of the missing aircraft, and the only way to be sure was to send a ground search party to check it out.
This was a time before the establishment of the State Emergency Service. There were no helicopters based at Cairns. It was the responsibility of the police to organise a ground search party. Ray believes that the party that was assemblied at Ray Morris's farm at the base of the mountain at Campbell Creek on the morning of 29 January consisted of three police officers, three ambulance bearers, two civil defence personal, a lady newspaper reporter and about nine locals, mostly farmers including himself. A missing ingredient in the party was someone who had bush walking knowledge of the mountain.
The first Kevin Murgatroyd knew of the crash was a phone call from Alan Broughton. As Alan was aware that Kevin had been on a Pyramid search only a couple of weeks before for the Police, he assumed that the Police would have been in touch with him. Whilst Alan and Kevin were talking, Keith Howarth, the Ambulance Superintendent, drove in to Kevin’s place and acquainted him with the details. He was told that a party was at Ray Morris’s farm and was going to the top via Campbell Creek. Kevin knew from personal experience (having been some distance above the falls on the creek) and from earlier discussions with another bushwalker that this route was impenetrable. Kevin informed Keith that he would contact Alan Broughton and Peter Bell, both of whom had recently been to the top, as a prelude to a school bushwalk, and ask them to lead a party from Thomason’s farm at the foot of the peak at Highleigh. Keith said he would bring the party in from Aloomba and both groups would meet at the Gordonvale Police Station.
Alan & Peter drove from Cairns, collected Kevin at Gordonvale and proceeded to the Gordonvale Police Station arriving about 7:45. Here the party from Aloomba had reassembled. Alan spoke to the police officer in charge informing him that he, Alan, could lead the party to the top of the mountain.
Leaving the station in a convoy of cars the party headed for Thomason’s farm from where the track up Bell Peak started. After a brief conversation with Jim and Reta Thomason explaining the reason for so many vehicles on their property, the group drove along a headland to where Alan and Peter were able to pick the faint beginnings of the track they had used in late 1969. Ascent was commenced at approximately 8:30am in hot sultry conditions.
The weather conditions experienced (high heat, extreme humidity, torrential rain, and later that night extreme cold ) cannot be overstated, whilst the organization of and preparations by and for the party cannot be understated. There was no pre start briefing (nor any debriefing as the various parties returned to Thomason’s farm from the peak).The party was far too large. No record of those involved was kept. Today participants have to rely on their memories (after forty years) and the few photos of that time. As Ray remembers it there were about 18 in the party. Today no rescue group would be allowed with such complete lack of organization and preparation
. Many of those in the party were completely unprepared physically and provision wise and had no concept of the conditions they would face both in terrain and humidity. Some had given little or no thought to the time that they could be up on the mountain. It is felt that some thought they were going for a short walk in the bush. Unfortunately many in the party carried insufficient water and those who did have sufficient had to share with those who didn't. Maybe this lack of preparedness by some was caused by the thought that Campbell Creek was abundant in good drinking water. The change in route should have triggered a rethink in preparedness from those who had originally gathered at the end of Bennett Road,. It didn't happen. Later in the day, the lack of water became a problem. After all it was January, quite hot and extremely humid.
The presence of the three bushwalkers, Alan Broughton, Peter Bell, and Kevin Murgatroyd, was vital to the success of the search. From experience, they were self-sufficient in water and food.
Personnel from the Department of civil aviation who were based at Cairns set up a communications base at Thomason's farm, which they referred to as Highleigh Base. John Cassidy, from DCA at the Cairns airport was in charge. John was a very capable organiser. He was confronted with unforeseen setbacks but responded promptly with an alternative plan. Also involved from DCA was Don Annat, another very capable organiser . Their experience in search and rescue was evident. Inspector Hoare from the Cairns police was officially in charge overall Jim and Reta Thomason played a major part in the operation by providing accommodation for the control centre.
As Ray had a flight radio operator’s license he was issued with a portable VHF radio. There were no mobile phones at that time and portable two-way radios were fairly cumbersome. To conserve the battery he was to make contact every hour on the hour.
The first part of the climb along a spur heading north, to about the 600 or 700 ft. mark was quite steep. At the end of this, three of the more senior climbers, wisely called it a day. From there to about the halfway mark, the climb was quite gradual. The ridge they were following was lightly timbered and fairly open. Its direction headed east leading to the summit of Bell Peak North. Some were not as fit as others, so the party would stop periodically and have a few minutes rest before continuing on. A bonus on this part of the climb was the view of the valley which could be seen through the trees. Comments like, "That Aloomba pub down there looks good right now", or "Some people actually go bushwalking for fun". As Kevin Murgatroyd joked, "To be accepted as a bushwalker you have to undergo a psychiatric examination. If you fail, you are eligible". They were all feeling the heat and humidity but, at this early stage were still in good spirits.
The second half of the climb became quite steep. On the positive side, they were out of light forest and into rainforest which provided shade. The steep terrain slowed them down quite a bit, and it was very hot and a storm was brewing. Their water supplies were dwindling.
When the party was crossing a small plateau at an approximately 2900 feet almost at the Peak at about 12:30 p.m. and. four hours into the climb, someone kicked a small piece of twisted metal. They had stumbled onto the wreckage. The plane had come down across the route the party was following to the top, and the trail of wreckage could be followed a short distance to where the main wreckage lay. The damage to the aircraft was extensive. What remained of the fuselage was standing nose down against a tree.and it had been tom open revealing the entire floor. This severe damage would have been compounded by the exit of an engine which was being carried as cargo and was found some distance in front of the main wreckage. The sound of the crash, as Ray remembers it, lasted just a fraction of a second. It seemed inconceivable to him that so much damage could occur in an instant. Fortunately, there had been no fire.
Sadly, there were no survivors. One body was located adjacent to where he would have been seated. The other was hidden by tree branches. Their suitcases had broken open and their personal belongings were scattered about. The searchers were aware that these men had families who were about to receive the devastating news which Ray radioed to Highleigh Base.
Highleigh Base instructed the party to look for a suitable area for a helicopter to land so as the remains could be airlifted out..
The party had not been informed of any designated leader, but all interacted co-operatively, a tribute to those volunteers who were involved in an extremely unpleasant experience under extremely debilitating conditions.
Looking back, Ray, (and Alan, Peter, and Kevin wholeheartedly concur with him) was never sure who was in charge of the party. There was little by way of pre-search briefing. It was assumed the police were in charge, and officially they were. However the senior officer in the party was one of those who quit at the first stop. The two remaining officers, Neil Bradford and Barry Down, whilst they did their duty, at no stage took a commanding role. In reality, leaders in their individual fields emerged without appointment. Alan Broughton and Peter Bell led the team up the ridge where they stumbled onto the crash site. Because Ray operated the two-way radio, he found himself advising the group of what they were to do next, relaying instructions from Highleigh. When the bodies were located, the police officers and Bob Wallace, an ambulance bearer, and Frank Steene,an auxiliary ambulance bearer’ who were well experienced with accident scenes, again without appointment, took charge of covering the bodies using the upholstery lining from the aircraft cabin. Covering bodies is a priority task at all accident sites. Each body was strapped to a pole which was cut long enough to allow two men at either end to enable them to be carried in the steep terrain.
Because of the lack of authority, the rest of the party was milling around, not knowing what to do but watch and wanting direction. One of the principals in the search issued an “instruction” for all those not directly occupied to proceed to the top to start building a helicopter pad. Being given something to do, they set off.
There was no suitably level and lightly timbered area at the crash site so the best option was the summit which was lightly timbered although it had a rocky surface and landing there, in the party’s view, was out of the question. The summit was a very narrow rocky ridge with steep terrain either side. Clearing the vegetation there would be relatively easy although they had only half axes and machetes. The proposed clearing would have fairly open access from the south the natural approach plan for a helicopter.
..After the victims had been attended to and removed from the crash site, the members of the search party became concerned with their own needs. The climb up the mountain had been hot and exhausting. By early afternoon the small amount of water carried had been almost all consumed and more was urgently needed. The party was to receive its water from heaven, not from rain, but from car tubes.
Aviation Department personnel had worked out a solution to the problem. They had car tubes filled with water and loaded them into a Cessna aircraft that had the right hand seat and door removed. The tubes were to be thrown from the plane as it passed over Bell Peak. The first couple of tubes ended in the rainforest a considerable distance away down the steep slope. As the pilot couldn't see the party among the trees, Ray had to guide him by radio, using simple instructions like ”left”, “right”, “hold it” “drop” etc. Alan volunteered to climb a tree to get a better view of the approaching plane and give Ray instructions to relay to the pilot. When it was thought the plane was in the right position and the right distance, he would say drop and the pilot’s assistant would roll the tube out. On the ground the shout would go out “Here they come again!” and all had to take shelter behind the northern side of the trees. It was quite a sight to see these tubes come hurtling down towards them. It was a bit like aerial coits.. Alan’s relaying to Ray was quite successful as they were able to retrieve many of the tubes that did not rupture on impact. Alan did have a scare when he saw a tube hurling directly towards him, getting larger by the second only to crash at the base of the tree he was in. He took a more defensive position after that. The target area on the summit was quite narrow.. From then on the pilot became fairly skilled and most tubes were dropping almost at their feet. Some burst on impact but some remained intact, and the party was able to save some water.. It was foul to drink and the group didn't know which was worse - drinking the Dunlop water, the Goodyear water, or dying of thirst. They figured, Burke and Wills would have relished it, so they drank it.
Later that day Highleigh base advised that the Bell helicopter which was on its way from Ingham would not be available to lift the bodies out that day
Several of the party decided that because their task (locating the aircraft) was completed there was nothing left for them to do, they were not equipped for a night on the peak, had not intended to stay ,or were concerned about their families decided to return to base. Barry Down led them off but they were back within three-quarters of an hour. They became lost and returned aided by the sound of chopping. Alan Broughton volunteered them to lead them safely off the mountain. As they were nearing the end of their descent the storm broke, and they came off the mountain as it was getting dark - tired, wet, hungry and bedraggled.
Achieving what they did in one day was no mean feat.
Those remaining on the top decided to establish camp at a small, rock free area about midway between the crash site and the summit. They built a modest lean-to featuring a “thatched” roof made of leafy branches. It was small but did offer a small degree of protection. They named the structure Bell Peak Motel. The ground was sloping and damp. It was a long night. The same ferocious storm that the departing party travelled through hit the campers. In contrast to the stiffling heat and humidity during that day, they were now wet and freezing. There was one smoker amongst them so they were able to get a fire going and with great difficulty keep it going, but there was more smoke than flames. Climbing up the mountain in the day they were saturated with perspiration, camping at the top during the night they were saturated with rain. Sleep was impossible and the time was spent telling yarns and envying the people below in their beds. It was a miserable night.
DAY 2 – WAITING
The dawn was the calm after the storm. A bright clear sky. Looking south from the summit the searchers were looking way down the Mulgrave valley, to the west -the mountains of the Tableland, to the north right up the coast, and to the east , as one of the party said, ”If the earth were flat we would be able to see South America”. Ray waxes lyrical in his account of the morning. “When daylight came the view from our clearing on the summit was spectacular. The storm had passed. Misty remnants of the storm were lifting. The cane fields in the valley contrasted against the lush rainforest of the mountains. The rugged rainforest covered mountains appeared far more expansive than the seemingly narrow strip of farming land in the valley. To the east the sea and the sky blended together making the horizon difficult to define. The Franklin Islands appeared to be suspended in the sky. I have flown down the valley many times and never tired of the majestic view of the valley and mountains that is a privilege to experience. However, the view from the Bell Peak summit on this early morning, following the storm, surpassed anything I had previously experienced”.
As the plane had been located on the first day, now the operation involved removing the bodies and a crash investigation being conducted by the Department of Civil Aviation.
As It was obvious that nothing was going to be achieved on Friday, as there was no suitable helicopter available to remove the bodies and the crash site examiners would not be available until the next day, it was decided that six of the remaining party should return to Highleigh led by Peter Bell, leaving Neil Bradford, Ray Hickling, and Kevin Murgatroyd at the top. When Peter was off the mountain and before returning to Cairns, he checked with Alan Broughton and brought him up to date with the events since Alan had led the first party out the previous afternoon.. Alan also had received a call from the Department of Civil Aviation enquiring if he would guide the crash investigation team of four members led by Ted Tovell to the crash site on the Saturday morning.
Meanwhile the three at the peak carried out “consolidation duties” at the camp site and the clearing at the top. Mostly what they did was to wait for a Bell helicopter which was on its way from Ingham.
A Bell CH 47 helicopter was the only one available within reasonable flying distance, It is quite basic by today's standards. The summit is 3370 ft.. and the performance of the Bell at this altitude is not impressive
Then Ray, Neil and Kevin were advised that the helicopter was on its way. Ideally, a helicopter needs to maintain forward speed while ascending. They watched as it headed south down the valley then make a 180 degree turn, then track straight back towards them. They lit a small smoke fire to indicate to the pilot the wind direction and speed. The pilot and his assistant dropped water in plastic bottles as well as food. Some of the plastic bottles broke but the quality of the water was a welcome change from the Dunlop and Goodyear water delivered the previous day. They also lowered a chainsaw on a rope. The pilot was not prepared to come too low given the borderline performance of this aircraft. However, a more experienced pilot was on his way from Sydney via the airlines.
The food that was sent was prepared by local farmers wives. As they later learnt, they were Reta Thomason whose home was the Highleigh base, the late Lou Angelino and Ray’s wife Marion. Among the supplies received was a carefully packed bottle of rum. It had a note, "With the compliments of a local farmer". That night in camp, they shared the rum declaring to a man, that the farmer who sent it was indeed a gentleman among gentlemen. Ray later learnt that his wife Marion had sent it. It was his bottle of rum. The airdrop also included bottles of eucalyptus oil and long clear plastic bags.
During that afternoon the first “sightseers” arrived to have a look at the crash, two local farmers. They made the trip easier than the party had the day before – they were younger and fitter than most of the original party, and the conditions on Friday, whilst still very tropical, were much more tolerable than on the day before.
The next event of that day had Kevin wondering about the thought processors of officialdom A party of six police officers arrived at the top late afternoon.. For what purpose no one seemed to know. Five were so out of condition that when they reached the top they collapsed and were not capable of doing anything.. They were still wearing their uniforms which were not designed for tropical conditions, let alone mountain climbing. One was still wearing his motor cycle leggings. Kevin claimed that the sergeant in charge of the Cairns police station went through that station looking for “volunteers” and the only ones he caught were those too slow to get out of his way.
The sixth, Arthur Lynch, was an asset to the final stages of the operation. He was a one time timber cutter and a successful competition axeman. When he first viewed the result of the search party’s skills as axemen in making the clearing, he commented “Those trees died hard”. He was certainly the right choice to send on this mission.
The second night “Bell Peak Motel” was crowded again. No storm this night, but a couple light showers, light compared with the night before. Some of the police officers climbed into the large plastic bags to keep dry. Kevin enquired what was the purpose of these bags, and was told that they were body bags and someone (Arthur Lynch?) added they each time they were used they were washed and reused. They were rapid exits by those in the bags.
The second night had Neil, Kevin and Ray more in a listening mode than participating in the conversations.. They were exhausted, having had little sleep since the morning before, in Ray’s case the Wednesday night when he heard plane crash. It is surprising how long the human body can go without sleep if necessary. Because of the wet ground, showers, and the generally miserable conditions, there was very little sleep for them again on Friday night.
DAY 3 THE RETRIEVAL
The second dawn over Bell Peak was again spectacular, but not as spectacular as the previous one. This was to be the final day of the search and retrieval operation that had commenced on the Thursday morning. Those on the top knew that the helicopter was ready with a more experienced pilot and also on the way up the mountain was the Department of Civil Aviation crash investigation team, guided by Alan Broughton.
The Bell helicopter was fitted with a special hook to which was attached a cargo net. This hook was controlled by a mechanism which allowed the pilot to release the load . The plan was that the replacement pilot would deliver the net containing equipment that would be used by the safety investigation team (instruments and other material for investigating the cause of the crash, camping gear and personal items) leave the net and then return when the bodies were placed in it and take them to Highleigh base. The pilot radioed Ray with instructions on the use of simple arm movements to guide the aircraft over the ridge and to indicate his height above the ground.
The flight plan was to be the same as on the previous day – fly south along the foot hills of the Malbon Thompson Range, do a 1800 turn then climb diagonally north over the Campbell Creek Falls catchment to the summit of North Bell Peak.
Those on the top were watching expectantly as this was to be the end of their stay, but their expectations were short lived. About two miles from them the cargo net fell from the aircraft. Ray radioed the pilot with the bad news. This was a major setback. The pilot was adamant that he did not touch the release button, so this meant that the holding and release mechanism was not reliable. Accidentally dropping the bodies somewhere in the rainforest was unthinkable, they would never be found again. That hook had to be repaired and thoroughly checked.
The helicopter returned to Highleigh base where the repairs were carried out then did several runs up and down the Mulgrave Valley carrying a 44 gal. drum full of water to test it. The repairs were successful.
In its next attempt on the rescue the helicopter was guided by Ray over the very modest clearing onto which the pilot dropped a cargo net and promptly left . The bodies were then placed in the net..
When the bodies were securely packed, there was no need for the police (excepting for Arthur Lynch) who had arrived the previous afternoon, Neil Bradford and Kevin Murgatroyd to remain on the summit. They left to return to Highleigh led by Kevin.
On their descent they met the DCA team led by Alan coming up. Kevin envied Alan’s clean clothes, shaven face but mostly his clean, dry socks. He and Neil were still in the clothes that they had dressed in on Thursday morning, the only concession to civilization they had had was the soapless showering in the rain.
Kevin and Neil informed the upward bound party of the loss of all their gear and then continued on. to Thomason’s farm As they were nearing the foot of the mountain the helicopter with the bodies underneath flew over. This time the operation was a success.
At the foot of the mountain, in the midday tropical heat, this party was met by a police sergeant who offered them, not cold water, but warm mangoes that he had picked up off the ground at Thomason’s farm. They were driven to the farm, then left Highleigh base to return to Gordonvale to their families.
Neil & Kevin’s arrival at the base marked the end of the search and retrieval expedition that had started Thursday morning. The wreckage had been found and the bodies had been retrieved. Those still on the mountain were now involved in the crash investigation.
It must be remembered that, with the exception of a few who were on official duty, the members of the search and rescue party which had left on Thursday were all volunteers who undertook the arduous expedition for pure altruism. It says something for the calibre of these persons that counselling was not considered at that time and all went on with their everyday lives with no post traumatic stress from their ordeal.
As far as known, there is no official record anywhere of who participated. The closest is the list prepared by Ray found at the conclusion of this account.
The next section deals with the crash investigation after the search and rescue operation and is given in the first person accounts of Alan and Ray.
On Thursday afternoon about half of the rescue party decided to walk down the mountain as their services were no longer required and camping resources at the crash site were non-existent. This party of about nine persons moved off and after a while returned, having missed the track further down the mountain and asked for guide. I was asked to lead them down which I did, and we arrived at the base of the mountain in a thunder storm, soaking wet.
I went to school on Friday and met up again with Peter Bell in the afternoon. Peter had brought down most of the party who had stayed on Thursday night. I also received a phone call from 'DCA to see if I would guide the crash investigation party of four members led by Ted Tovell to the crash site on Saturday morning,. To make it easier for the crash investigators, as they were no longer young men, DCA arranged for the helicopter to carry the party's personal gear and the investigators’ equipment to the clearing on the top of the mountain.
At about mid-morning we met Kevin Murgatroyd, Neil Bradford and five of the police party coming down. The six member police party headed by Arthur Lynch had been sent up the mountain on Friday to create a clearing for the helicopter. Kev then informed us that earlier in the morning he watched the helicopter on its first trip to the clearing on the top of the mountain lose its load over the Campbell Creek catchment. All of our gear which was in a cargo net attached to the underside of the helicopter had disappeared into the tree-tops due to a faulty release mechanism. The release mechanism had to be checked and tested and it was later in the day before the helicopter returned to the clearing with additional tools collected by DCA and the two bodies were safely removed off the mountain. '
During the rest of the day, the crash investigators removed components from the instrument panel, measured the dispersal of the crash debris, inspected the engines for fuel and oil blockages and mechanical failure as far as possible (a sledge hammer was used to crack open the crankcases) and located the spare engine, carried as cargo, about 50 yards beyond the crash site. Seven people spent Saturday night on the mountain.
By this time, accommodation at the top was a little bit more advanced than it had been on Thursday and Friday nights with Tom(?) Machan in charge of the camp and acting as cook.
On Sunday morning, the site investigations were completed and the helicopter collected the final load of plane instruments, tools and camping equipment that had been used during the body recovery process. At about mid-day we all bade farewell to Bell Peak North and the sombre crash site that had held our attention over the last four days and returned to the foot of the mountain where we were received by the waiting DCA officials.
About six weeks later, I was reimbursed for the loss of my personal equipment due to the helicopter mishap.
After the bodies had been placed in the net, I radioed the pilot to return. I guided him in once more over the clearing. Arthur who was crouched alongside the net made the hook up. I signalled the pilot to lift. When the load was clear of the ground I raised both arms above my head with my thumbs up. He descended the mountainside straight towards Highleigh Base. We all watched anxiously hoping that the hook held. When he was clear of the mountain l heaved. a sigh of relief.
Soon after the bodies had been lifted,. Kevin, Neil, the police and I were about to leave when I received a radio message from the pilot requesting that myself and Arthur Lynch remain for another day to lift out some of the aircraft components as part of the investigation.
Not long after that the air safety investigators arrived on the summit. They were led up the mountain by Alan Broughton. Ted Tovell, a World War II pilot and ex airline pilot was in charge of the investigation. He had with him two engineers and a worker from the Cairns airport. As I remember the worker’s name was Tom Machan. I suggested to Ted that he had far more experience and would be more competent.to direct the helicopter. His reply was "That may be true but the pilot has confidence in you and that means a lot to him in this situation." He added “Anything that lessens the chance of a second aircraft lying on this mountain is worth pursuing. I also would be grateful if you stayed on, but I certainly don't expect you to, you've been up here long enough." I agreed to stay. I settled in for a third night. Ted had a wealth of aeronautical experience behind him. He was a very interesting person to converse with. By this time we had a tent fly, some inflatable pillows and fresh clothes. I think that I even managed to get some sleep.
On the fourth day I helped the investigation team find components which may have been helpful in their investigation When they had assembled all that they required, I radioed the pilot to bring the cargo net.. and we repeated the previous day's procedure. It went off smoothly. After the components were safely off the mountain, my job, Arthur's and the investigation team’s was finished. We bid farewell to Bell Peak North and headed off down the mountain together.
At the base the ever reliable John Cassidy was waiting with a vehicle to pick us up. I must have smelt terrible. Four days in the summer heat and no shower except for the storm rain on the first night. It was the first day of February which was our twelfth wedding anniversary. I made it home in time to spruce up and take my beautiful wife out to dinner. What a contrast! I enjoyed that.
A couple of weeks after the search, I had a visit from DCA auditors who wanted to ascertain the likelihood of finding the cargo net and its contents. I took them to a place where they could view the area on the mountain where I believe the net and its contents may be. They agreed the chance of finding it was very slim. They officially wrote it off. I don't think it has ever been found
Sometime later I had a visit from personnel from the Department of Civil Aviation. They thanked me for my participation in the search and in particular, as they described it, my accurate estimate of where the wreckage lay. As they put it, my accurate information saved a long and expensive search.
They then assisted me with composing a statement in respect to this accident, which they requested from me, Shortly after that, the Gordonvale police requested a statement from me also. With their assistance I wrote that one at the Gordonvale police station.! think Neil Bradford may have assisted me with that.
PERSONNEL INVOLVED IN THE BELL PEAK SEARCH & RESCUE
Those in the initial climb to the summit
Gordonvale Police-------------- Barry Down
Gordonvale Ambulance------ Bob Wallace
Gordonvale Civil Defence Keith Walker
Farmers-------- Bob Anderson
Emelio (Gelly) Angelino
Tracker--------- Budy Waria
Bush Walkers Alan Broughton
Reporter-------- Joan Starr
The pilot who flew the Cessna 206 in the initial search of the peak and later that day with the car tube drop was Bush Pilots chief pilot Colin Sheddon.
The names of the two helicopter pilots are unknown at the time of writing this report.
The names of the five police officers who accompanied Arthur Lynch are also unknown at this time.
And of course Jim and Reta Thomason have to be included for making their farm available to be used as the Highleigh base and for their support to all personnel during the whole operation.
This story was uploaded into the Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia entry for the Mountain or Hill 'Bell Peak North'.