In the close-knit world of Defence aviation, April 2 is a sombre day for many personnel as they remember and reflect on the loss of nine Australian Defence Force personnel who died when Sea King helicopter ‘Shark 02’ crashed while on a humanitarian support mission on the Indonesian island of Nias in 2005.
The Navy members who died were Lieutenants Paul Kimlin, Jonathan King, Mathew Goodall and Leading Seaman Aircrewman Scott Bennet, all aircrew from 817 Squadron at HMAS Albatross, as well as Lieutenant Matthew Davey and Petty Officer Stephen Slattery.
Also killed were Air Force members Squadron Leader Paul McCarthy, Flight Lieutenant Lynne Rowbottom and Sergeant Wendy Jones.
Two personnel who were seriously injured in the incident but survived were Navy’s Leading Seaman Shane Warburton and RAAF’s Leading Aircraftman Scott Nichols.
A service is usually held on this day at a memorial located outside the Albatross chapel.
The memorial’s location in the home of Navy’s Fleet Air Arm serves as a tangible reminder of the history of service and sacrifice of aviation crews.
The memorial also has an enduring connection with the Shark 02 families, who were involved in every stage from design to construction, when the memorial was refurbished and rededicated in 2014.
Because of current physical distancing requirements, personnel and family were unable to gather for the service this year, however, Chaplain Steve Estherby conducted a private memorial ceremony, which has been uploaded to social media platforms. It can be viewed at: vimeo.com/channels/shark02
“This year is the 15th anniversary of this tragedy and while I deeply regret that we were not able to conduct a public memorial service, I’m pleased we found a way to mark this important event and remember those who died and their loved ones, who are important to the wider ADF family,” Chaplain Estherby said.
In a sombre and solitary moment, which reflected a wider loss still keenly felt by many personnel, Albatross Executive Officer Commander Nigel Rowan placed a wreath at the memorial on behalf of all those who could not be there.
“This is a place of profound memories,” Commander Rowan said.
“Many still carry the loss of their friends and colleagues in their hearts and minds.
“While we were unable to assemble as a group to share that loss, I know many others will also be thinking of them today.”
Chaplain Estherby concluded his address by saying, “We remember them so that we do not forget what they have shown us. Faithful service and sacrifice for others. We need their example in the midst of the current crisis and we stand on their shoulders.”