Commemorating Air Force’s worst peacetime air crash
28 August 2012
Defence representatives today joined members of the Papua New Guinea community in remembering the 40th anniversary of Air Force’s worst peacetime air crash.
On 28 August 1972, a Caribou transport aircraft came down in the Kudjeru Gap in Papua New Guinea, claiming the lives of 25 of the 29 on board.
Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Geoff Brown said the aircraft had been returning high school students and instructors to Port Moresby following an Australian Army School Cadet Camp in Lae.
“We believe poor weather forced the crew to retrace their route back through the Kudjeru Gap, but the aircraft’s starboard wing impacted with treetops on a ridgeline,” Air Marshal Brown said.
“After three days of searching, rescuers discovered five surviving cadets, however, one survivor later died in hospital.”
Air Marshal Brown said the majority of cadets lost in the accident were students of De La Salle High School.
The Caribou’s crew included Flight Lieutenant Graham Thomas, Pilot Officer Gregory Ebsary and Corporal Gary Power. Captain Robert Loftus, a Ground Liaison Officer with the Australian Army, was also killed in the accident.
The aircraft was part of a detachment of No. 38 Squadron Caribou operated in Port Moresby until Papua New Guinea’s independence in 1975.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the accident, members of the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby, along with representatives of Air Force’s No. 38 Squadron, attended a memorial service at De La Salle High School in Port Moresby.
“It is humbling for Defence to join the community at this memorial service, as we are bonded in our grief,” Air Marshal Brown said
“The Defence members on board the Caribou made the ultimate sacrifice whilst serving the Papua New Guinea community.
“The tragedy of their death is compounded by the loss of so many young lives in this accident.”
Air Marshal Brown said the past 40 years had shown Defence was committed to supporting the Papua New Guinea community, as evidenced by recent election support as well as providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Air Lift Group Public Affairs Officer Eamon Hamilton (02) 4587 3844 or 0429 868794
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999