User:Therese Spillane/Pilot David Black killed fighting bush fires in Australia

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Choppers water bombing fires
Image: Therese Spillane.
Choppers continue to fight bush fires in the Budawang National Park after the tragic death of David Black
Image: Therese Spillane.

The pilot of a plane, which crashed in rugged terrain while water bombing a fire in Southern New South Wales (NSW) Australia,on 24 October 2013, has died.

The 43 year-old husband and father of three David Black from Trangie, New South Wales died when his fixed-wing aircraft went down in rugged terrain in the Budawang National Park, 40km west of Ulladulla.

Mr Black was contracted to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) and was helping to control bush fires in the Wirritin Mountain area through water bombing activities in an area renowned for its very rugged terrain.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has described the loss as a “tragedy” having lost his own father in a bushfire he paid tribute to the pilot.

“We’ve had a huge tragedy on one of our firegrounds today,” RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

“It’s a tragedy for the firefighting community but first and foremost it’s a tragedy for this man’s family.

“He’s a husband with young children and we’re acutely aware that there’s a family suffering today because their dad didn’t come home.”

Superintendant Joe Cassart, Shoalhaven local area commander, told a press conference at the Nowra police station that the crash had caused “significant damage to the aircraft”, fighting fires in the Wirritin Mountains area of the Budawang Ranges at the time of the accident.

“It has taken us sometime to get the rescue personnel winched down and of course the priority was to ensure the safety of the pilot,” he said.

“One of the big challenges in regards to that task was the winds in the area at the time. But their efforts were certainly successful in getting a member of the ambulance rescue squad down there. It was at that point that they confirmed that the male was in fact deceased, they then retracted the ambulance personnel officer and were not in a position to go down there because of the impeding weather conditions.”

“As soon as the conditions are in our favour we’ll retrieve the pilot.”

The local newspaper Milton Ulladulla Times reported that initial attempts by the ambulance rescue team had to be aborted due to high winds.

Narromine mayor Bill McAnally said the pilot was well known in the Trangie community, having moved there three years ago with his young family.

“Life just doesn’t seem fair sometimes. We really feel for his family and loved ones.” Describing the pilot as a decent hard-working family man with a big heart.

“It’s a great loss to our area because he was a real community man,” he said.

An investigation will be carried out by an officer from the Air Transport Safety Bureau once it is safe to do.

Another pilot was also killed on the same day whilst providing logistical support for fire fighters in the Victorian Alps.