Three members of an ABC news team have died after a helicopter crash at Lake Eyre in South Australia.
Police have found two bodies and a searching for a third in the wreckage of the crash – on the eastern shores of Lake Eyre.
The ABC has confirmed those on board were veteran journalist Paul Lockyer, cameraman John Bean and pilot Gary Ticehurst
The experienced news crew had been working on news and feature projects in the Lake Eyre region and it is believed their Sydney-based helicopter crashed in a remote area northwest of Maree.
SA Police located the wreckage early on Friday, but have not identified the helicopter as the ABC’s as yet.
Police have confirmed however that two people are dead.
‘As a result of an initial search, police have located two deceased persons in the wreckage,’ Inspector Glen Sickerdick said in a statement on Friday.
A search is under way for the third person believed to have been in the helicopter.
A police investigation has also commenced, Insp Sickerdick said.
The ABC said in a statement that police do not expect to find any survivors.
The network’s managing director, Mark Scott, said: ‘This has been the longest of nights and we fear it will be the saddest of days.
‘Paul, Gary and John have each given decades of service to the ABC. They are passionate about their work and finding great stories from all over Australia to bring to the public.
‘Our love, thoughts and prayers go out to family and friends of Paul, Gary and John at this terrible time.’
Eyewitnesses described seeing the chopper going down in flames, although it remains unclear what caused the accident.
The weather around Lake Eyre was clear at the time of the crash, with just a few scattered showers.
William Creek pilot Trevor Wright told Adelaidenow.com.au on Thursday the aircraft had been carrying out aerial photography and video work when it went down.
Occupants of the helicopter had been due to meet a group on the edge of the lake for dinner, Mr Wright said.
‘When the helicopter didn’t turn up, they became anxious and sent out a search party on foot; then they found the wreck,’ Mr Wright said.
The ABC said Mr Lockyer is one of its most experienced journalists. In a career spanning more than 40 years he has covered some of the biggest stories that have broken at home and abroad for all forms of television and radio reporting.
He has worked as a correspondent in Washington, Singapore and throughout Asia, won a Logie Award for best TV Reporter, and in recent years built his reputation on unsurpassed coverage of rural and regional issues.
Mr Ticehurst is one of the most experienced media pilots in Australia. He has close to 40 years of helicopter operational experience, which includes 30 years as chief pilot of Film Helicopters Australia, working with the Australian film and television industry.
Mr Bean is an award winning lighting camera operator who has worked for the ABC for 20 years, filming for programs as diverse as News and The 7.30 Report.