Old 18th Aug 2011, 18:43
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More from "The Australian" 3 hours ago.

Hard to get the head around.

THE Australian Broadcasting Corporation fears that one of its helicopters crashed last night in South Australia's remote northeast, with grave concerns the three staff members on board have been killed.

South Australian police were this morning attempting to make their way to the site of the crash, which occurred east of Lake Eyre shortly after 7.30pm.

They confirmed three people died after the helicopter went down northwest of Marree and 140km north east of William Creek on the eastern side of Lake Eyre.

An ABC spokesman confirmed last night they had lost contact with a news crew that was filming at Lake Eyre.

"We have not been in contact with them," ABC communications director Mr Mick Millett said.

"We are deeply worried."

Police were unlikely to reach the crash site until early this morning and were being hampered by its remote location and bad weather conditions.

Early this morning the ABC confirmed that among the passengers on its chopper was journalist Paul Lockyer and cameraman John Bean.

The helicopter was being flown by Gary Ticehurst, the founder and principal of Film Helicopters Australia, who has been contracted to fly ABC staff since 1980.

His company is considered Australia's leading film and television aerial production specialist. Its website boasts that Ticehurst has "vast experience, flying helicopters for more than 30 years, and has more than 14,000 chopper hours supporting the film and television industry both in Australia and internationally".

"Film Helicopters Australia offers highly experienced pilots with the ability to carry out low level filming operations, provide aircraft ranging from helicopters to other specialist aircraft and co-ordinate and fly all and varied "on camera' aircraft sequences," it continues.

With more than 39 years' experience in journalism, Lockyer is one of the ABC's most experienced reporters. Corrigin-born, Lockyer started at the ABC's Perth office in 1969 where he did his ABC radio and TV news cadetship. From 1979, he spent the next nine years as a foreign correspondent in Jakarta, Bangkok and Washington and as the ABC's Asia Correspondent based in Singapore.

Lockyer 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. He spent much time in the early 1980s covering the troubles in Central America.

After 11 years at the Nine Network in Sydney, he rejoined the ABC in 1999 as Olympics Reporter for TV News to cover the Sydney Games. 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 Olympics in 2004 and reported on the Beijing Olympics, in 2008, for The 7.30 Report.

Between the Olympics, Lockyer has provided extensive coverage of rural issues, particularly the extensive drought. Those efforts earned him a Centenary Medal in 2003 and he was twice awarded the NSW Farmers Mackellar Media prize for coverage of rural issues.

He spent much of 2005 presenting Western Australia's 7:00pm ABC TV news, before returning to Sydney to fulfil a number of presentation and reporting roles for ABC TV News and Current Affairs, including the dramatic rescue of two miners from Tasmania's Beaconsfield gold mine. Of late he has focused on rural issues, particularly the water crisis confronting the nation.

Cameraman Bean, based in Queensland, is also one of the ABC's most experienced hands with more than 22 years at the broadcaster. In that time he has worked in news and for 7.30, News 24, Landline, Australian Story, Catalyst, The New Inventors, Gardening Australia, Art Nation and for the Australia Network.

He also filmed documentaries Return To Lake Eyre and After The Deluge
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