Teamwork key to helicopter recovery

This article has photo gallery Published on FLTLT Courtney Jay (author), SGT Bill Solomou (photographer)

Location(s): near Eden, NSW

Topic(s): Australian Clearance Diving Team ONE, Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST

An Australian Army Heavy Recovery Vehicle is used to successfully recover a NSW RFS-contracted helicopter that ditched into the Ben Boyd Reservoir, near Eden, NSW. (photo: SGT Bill Solomou)
An Australian Army Heavy Recovery Vehicle is used to successfully recover a NSW RFS-contracted helicopter that ditched into the Ben Boyd Reservoir, near Eden, NSW.

On Sunday 12 January, Fire and Rescue New South Wales and members of the Australian Defence Force successfully retrieved a helicopter that was forced to ditch into the Ben Boyd Reservoir, near the township of Eden, on Thursday 9 January.

The Bell UH-1H was contracted to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and was supporting the firefighting efforts of the Clyde Mountain fire at the time.

Operations Officer of Navy Clearance Diving Team One, Lieutenant Michael Hutchesson, said the retrieval mission saw his team work with Fire and Rescue NSW’s Hazardous Materials Team (HAZMAT) to float 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 500 metres 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,” he said.

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 then pull the helicopter safely to shore, ready for handover to the relevant authorities.

Since the incident last Friday, the site has been under the control of Fire and Rescue NSW HAZMAT, with Acting Inspector Jason Murphy saying the site was cordoned off to avoid contamination of the water, with the reservoir 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.

Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST 19-20 imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery:
https://images.defence.gov.au/S20192970.