Friendship from tragedy – solemn ceremony in Nias

This article has photo gallery Published on CMDR Fenn Kemp (author)

Location(s): Nias Island

Topic(s): Ceremony and Traditions, Helicopters, Humanitarian and Disaster Relief (HADR)

Royal Australian Navy Attaché Captain Nick Hart and his Assistant Chief Petty Officer Rob Pope pay their respects at the memorial to the Shark 02 Sea King Helicopter crash on the Indonesian Island of Nias. (photo: Unknown)
Royal Australian Navy Attaché Captain Nick Hart and his Assistant Chief Petty Officer Rob Pope pay their respects at the memorial to the Shark 02 Sea King Helicopter crash on the Indonesian Island of Nias.

Australian Defence Force members recently returned to the scene of one of the military's worst disasters to pay tribute to victims and for a heartfelt reunion with locals.

In April 2005, a Royal Australian Navy Sea King Helicopter Shark 02, was attempting to land on a sports field on the Indonesian island of Nias, when it crashed and caught fire.

Of the 11 passengers and crew aboard, only two survived.

The site in the remote village of Tuindrao is now marked by a large memorial wall and plaque.

The Sea King had been participating in the Australian effort to provide humanitarian relief to the island following an earthquake.

The Australian Navy's Attaché in Indonesia, Captain Nick Hart, said the local people have never forgotten the kindness, generosity and sacrifice of the Australian Defence Force and the Australian people.

“We make an effort to return to Nias on a regular basis,” he said.

“Every time the reception is warm and sincere.”

This was the first visit to Nias for Deputy Navy Attaché to Indonesia, Chief Petty Officer Cryptologic Linguist Analyst Rob Pope, since posting to Jakarta.

He said the memorial continues to be a place of great respect and sadness for the local people.

“The area is quite remote, so a visit from outsiders, particularly foreigners in uniform, always draws a crowd,” he said.

“But every time we pay our respects, the village leaders stand with us – it’s always a special occasion for everyone involved.”

The visitors also took the opportunity to meet some of those who helped save the two Australians who survived the crash.

Benar Giawa, Adiziduhu Harefa, Motani Harefa and Seti Eli Ndruru were awarded the Bravery Medal at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2009.

Benar Giawa told the crowd the ceremony had become an annual event.

“I would like to thank the representatives from the Australian Embassy for coming here today to remember this tragedy,” Papak Benar said.

“People like to call us heroes but for me we are only rescuers.”

Of those who died in the accident, six were Navy members and three were members of the Royal Australian Air Force:

Lieutenant Paul Kimlin - Pilot and aircraft captain
Lieutenant Jonathan King 
- Co pilot
Lieutenant Matthew Goodall 
- Tactical coordinator
Leading Seaman Scott Bennet 
- Utility aircrewman
Squadron Leader Paul McCarthy 
- RAAF Medical Officer
Lieutenant Matthew Davey 
- RANR Medical Officer
Flight Lieutenant Lynne Rowbottom 
- RAAF Nursing Officer
Petty Officer Stephen Slattery 
- Navy Medical Assistant
Sergeant Wendy Jones 
- RAAF Medical Assistant


Leading Seaman Shane Warburton, and Air Force Corporal Scott Nichols survived the crash.

“It was heartening to see that what happened here more than a decade ago continues to be respected,” Captain Hart said.

“This was a tragedy which has left its mark on so many people, both here and back home.”