Rescue helicopter pilot who helped families in New South Wales floods killed in helicopter crash
A pilot has died following a helicopter crash in South Maroota in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday, 9 July 2022. The pilot killed in a New South Wales helicopter crash on the weekend is being remembered as a hero who played key roles in bushfire and recent flood rescues. Carl Hearps, aged 67, was flying his Bell 206L Longrange helicopter over the flooded Sackville, north-west of Sydney, before midday on Saturday when it crashed in South Maroota.
Emergency services from multiple agencies responded and had to navigate their way through difficult and flooded terrain to reach the fiery crash site.
The Rural Fire Service put out the blaze before Police Rescue located Hearps' body inside the mangled wreck. He could not be saved and was declared dead at the scene.
The crash scene was guarded overnight with temperatures falling to single digits.
Nine News helicopter pilot, Andrew Millet, discovered the crash site from billowing black plumes of smoke after he initially thought it was someone burning rubbish. “We landed straight away just to see if there was anything we could do to help. After landing, I went straight up to the wreckage and it was engulfed in flames. It was a very severe impact and there was nothing that I could do,” he said.
He added the incident was "clearly not survivable".
Millet later paid tribute to Hearps after he discovered hours later it was a colleague that was behind the control stick when it went down. “I’ve known the pilot of this aircraft for over 10 years,” he said in tears. “He was such a great guy. He was one of those blokes who would drop everything to help anyone in need and would always have this friendly nature about him. He was kind and generous.”
A family friend described the man from Cattai, a suburb only kilometres from the crash scene, as a "true gem of a man who would give you the shirt off his back". “They are such a beautiful family that do so much for the community,” the friend, who wanted to remain anonymous, told The Daily Telegraph. “He loved flying his helicopters and always helping when the fires went through plus floods in the Hawkesbury area."
Hearps reportedly cheated death two decades ago after a horror high-speed crash during a competition on the Hawkesbury River. He was competing in the Dargle Cup, a speed boat competition and travelling more than 250 kilometres when the vessel flipped.
The 67-year-old veteran started his flying career in 1982. Hearps was part of key rescue missions in the 2019 bushfires and several NSW floods in the past 18 months.
Social media footage and photos show the skilled pilot hovering just metres above the water while collecting it to douse a bushfire.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will lead the investigation into the crash.
Source: Sky News Australia