Navy clearance divers have helped NSW emergency crews retrieve a helicopter that was forced to ditch into the Ben Boyd Reservoir, near Eden.

The Bell UH-1H was contracted to the NSW Rural Fire Service and was supporting the firefighting efforts of the Clyde Mountain fire when it was forced to take the emergency action on January 9.

Lieutenant Michael Hutchesson said that the retrieval mission on January 12 revolved around the Navy team and the Fire and Rescue NSW’s Hazardous Materials Team (HAZMAT) floating the helicopter to the shoreline.

“Our team assessed the site and decided the best way to get the helicopter out of the water was to deploy lift bags in order to move it the approximate 500m to a recovery point,” Lieutenant Hutchesson said.

“Once near the shoreline, we then used a combination of lift bags and an Australian Army Heavy Recovery Vehicle to turn and rotate the helicopter upright onto its skids.

“I’m really pleased at how well our team did, this is unique tasking and they used their specialist skills really well to ensure a safe and successful outcome."
Once the Bell UH-1H was floated to the shoreline and turned upright, Australian Army personnel from 5 CSSB utilised a heavy recovery vehicle to pull the helicopter safely to shore ready for handover to the relevant authorities.

Since the incident, the site has been under the control of Fire and Rescue NSW HAZMAT with Acting Inspector Jason Murphy saying that the site was cordoned off to avoid contamination of the water, and the reservoir was closed as a drinking supply.
“I’m sure residents of the Eden area will be very relieved to know that the helicopter has been retrieved from the reservoir and preparations are now being made to restore it as a drinking water source,” Acting Inspector Murphy said.

Video of the retrieval is available here.