Tributes have flowed for Cattai local and veteran PILOT helicopter CARL HEARPS who is being remembered for his great community spirit and willingness to help others.
The 67-year-old had been on his way to pick up a family isolated by the floods near Sackville North when his helicopter crashed on Saturday, 9th July, just before noon.
He is remembered as a committed community man who had led flood recovery and firebombing efforts during times of crisis. He had delivered food stuffs to isolated communities multiple times during the floods in the past 18 months and had also helped with water bombing efforts during the bushfires.
Maroota South Rural Fire Service posted on its Facebook that Carl was “one of our community legends”.
It went on to say: “Carl Hearps was a very experienced pilot, he played a pivotal role in his helicopter during bush fires, often providing initial support to suppress fires to give brigades time. He also helped out during other local emergencies.
“Carl was a great bloke and a friend to many in our brigade and will be sadly missed by them. The entire community will miss his selfless acts of support.”
Carl flew several times to St Albans to drop supplies when the community was cut off. Linda Strickland from Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands said: “The Community has lost a legend.”
Macquarie MP Susan Templeman said she knew of Carl’s generosity and efforts in both floods and fires. “This is a tragedy for the Cattai community and the Hawkesbury, and a terrible loss to the close knit helicopter firefighting community. Deep condolences to his wife, family and friends.”
Nine News helicopter pilot Andrew Millet found the wreckage after spotting billowing black plumes of smoke while flying overhead.
“After landing, I went straight up to the wreckage and it was engulfed in flames,” he told Nine. “It was a very severe impact, and there was nothing that I could do.”
Emergency response teams called to the remote bushland near South Maroota battled their way through tricky terrain and floodaffected trails to get to the helicopter.
Andrew had known Carl for 10 years. “He was such a great guy,” he said. “He was always one of those blokes that would drop anything to help anyone in need.”
Carl’s son-in-law Duane James said he was a great family man. “He loved being a grandfather,” he said.
Carl began his flying career in 1982 and was chief pilot with NSW Helicopters.
He survived a high speed boat crash on the Hawkesbury in 2002 while competing in the Dargle Cup and his boat flipped at 250km/h.
On Tuesday Hills Shire Council held a minute’s silence in his memory. Hills Shire Mayor Peter Gangemis said: “Our sympathies, thoughts and prayers are with the Hearps family at this difficult time.“
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will lead the investigation into the crash which may take several months.