ABC Managing Director Mark Scott today paid tribute to three men who died in a a helicopter crash near Lake Eyre in South Australia last night: journalist Paul Lockyer, cameraman John Bean, and pilot Gary Ticehurst.
Last night there were fears the three had not survived.
This morning Scott paid tribute to the three news gatherers who died “at the peak of their craft”.
“This has been the longest of nights and we fear it will be the saddest of days,” he said.
“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.
‘‘These guys loved getting out and about and finding great Australian stories and bringing them to the Australian people and that’s what they have been doing the last few days.
“Our love, thoughts and prayers go out to family and friends of Paul, Gary and John at this terrible time.”
Lockyer was one of the ABC’s most experienced reporters, starting at the ABC’s Perth office in 1969.
He spent nine years as a foreign correspondent in Jakarta, Bangkok and Washington and as the ABC’s Asia Correspondent based in Singapore.
He was one of the first journalists to report on the full extent of the Khmer Rouge atrocities in Cambodia and the flight of boat people from Vietnam.
After 11 years at the Nine Network in Sydney, he rejoined the ABC in 1999. His reporting efforts at the Olympics earned him a Logie Award as most outstanding TV News Reporter in 2000. He later led the ABC TV News coverage of the Athens and Beijing Olympics.
He spent much of 2005 presenting Western Australia’s 7:00pm ABC TV news, before returning to Sydney. Of late he has focused on rural issues, particularly the drought and water crisis.
Last year he presented the ABC1 documentary, Lake Eyre: Australia’s Outback Wonder. After some “badgering”, he convinced his bosses to free the ABC helicopter for 10 days to film the running of the inland rivers after deluges in north Queensland.
He once described walking Lake Eyre as an “eerie sensation, being in the middle of this vast emptiness on this huge salt pan”, the blue of sky blurring into the blue of reflected water.
“The only noise comes from the wind and [there’s] not a sign of life, not even a bush fly to squat away, just dazzling white, flat dazzling white as far as the eye can see to the horizon and beyond.”
Cameraman John Bean, based in Queensland, has more than 22 years with the ABC in news and for 7.30, News 24, Landline, Australian Story, Catalyst, The New Inventors, Gardening Australia, Art Nation, Return To Lake Eyre, After The Deluge and for the Australia Network. He is married to Landline reporter Pip Courtney.
Pilot Gary Ticehurst has been contracted to fly ABC staff since 1980. His company, Film Helicopters Australia, is considered Australia’s leading film and television aerial production specialist. Its website boasts that Ticehurst has more than 14,000 chopper hours supporting the film and television industry both in Australia and internationally.
Paul Lockyer was passionate about covering rural stories for the ABC.
“I think Australia gets more interesting the more you go out,” he once said. “You can travel long distances before you see a homestead and people who built their lives there are fascinating because they live in the most arid part of the most arid inhabited continent and they will happily sit there and manage their business [for] eight, 10, 12 and 15 years in wait for the next rains to come.