ABC staff in Queensland will today pause to remember the 30th anniversary of the worst single accident in the broadcaster’s history.
On October 24, 1983, ABC staff in Rockhampton were left reeling after four colleagues died in a plane crash in central Queensland.
It exploded on impact in thick scrub country on the Fletcher’s property about 40 kilometres from Clermont, north-west of Rockhampton.
Station manager Ralph Elphinstone, Joe Mooney, Bill Fryer and Bruce Anning lost their lives while chasing stories on the Central Highlands.
Former ABC employee Gary Johnson says it was a devastating loss.
“The impact of losing four people who were really part of your family, not just workmates, was quite devastating on all of us,” he said.
Mr Johnson says a twist of fate meant he was not on board.
“The other cameraman and sound officer were with me and Ralph and Bruce in the plane ready to take off actually a week before – bad weather set in and never actually got away,” he said.
Colleague Bruce Black says it was a grim time for the close-knit workplace.
“That was an absolutely devastating day, four funerals one after the other and then still having to come back and do news and weather,” he said.
Joan Price says a fellow staff member broke the news when she returned from picking up the mail.
“He came bursting through the door and said, ‘have you heard the news, the plane’s down and they’re all dead’ – that was rather a shock,” she said.
She says the tragedy shocked the whole community.
“The staff here were like a family,” she said.
“The people of Rockhampton were very, very supportive – we had messages, we had flowers.”
The men are remembered with plaques at ABC offices in Rockhampton and Brisbane.