Contemporary Media Reports

The crash of the Stinson Airliner on 31 January 1945 was widely reported across Australia in city and country newspapers and internationally. The ensuing Coronial Inquiry was also scrutinised and exhaustively recorded in mainstream media. The following reports are samples of the media coverage retrieved from Trove.

These articles reproduced below were published in the evening edition of The Herald on the day of the crash.

10 DIE IN PLANE CRASH TODAY

Ten people were killed when an Australian National Airways plane, flying from Melbourne to Broken Hill, crashed at 8.13 a.m. today after an explosion 62 miles from Melbourne, between Kyneton and Bendigo. The disaster occurred at Spring Plain, two miles from Redesdale, 43 minutes after the plane, a twin-engined Stinson, had left Essendon. After the mid-air explosion the bodies of two men were flung clear, and the plane burst into flames, according to eye-witnesses.

 

Four of the eight passengers were officials of Commonwealth departments. Those killed were: —

CREW

Capt. Alan Leigh Murn, aged 27, married, of Chapman Avenue, Glenroy. First Officer O. D. Openshaw, 35, married, of Gordon Grove. East Preston.

PASSENGERS

Mr F. Kerr, believed to be of Broken Hill. C. R. Kerr, his son.

Mr John Gordon Jensen, 29. production manager of the Commonwealth Munitions factory at Mildura, married.

Mr Roy Fairfax Richardson, 54, of Faircroft Avenue, Gardiner, mechanical supervisor, of Allied Works Council, married.

Mr H. S. Black.

Peter Lawn, 11, of Kerang Kevin Lawn, 10, his brother.

Mr John Tayleur, 57, of Dandenong Road, Windsor, works supervisor of the A.W.C., married.

CRASH ON FARM

The plane took off at Essendon at 7.30 a.m., and crashed at 8.13 a.m. The tragedy was witnessed by Mr R. D. Bennett, of Spring Plains, on whose farm it occurred. He notified the Redesdale Post Office, which informed Constable P. Delaney, of Heathcote, who hurried to the scene. A representative of the Department of Civil Aviation, with the Operational Superintendent of A.N.A. (Capt. L. M. Johnston), and the Maintenance Superintendent (Mr D. Colquhoun), left Melbourne by car as soon as they received the news. The Baynton observer of the Victorian Aircraft Observation Corps checked the plane through that town on schedule. It was picked up by the spotter (Mrs S. Davey) at Redesdale. “The aircraft was travelling at meduim height — I estimate between 1000 and 2000 feet— when it came into view,” said Mrs Davey “Suddenly it seemed to go right out of control, and turn over in the air twice. Then it went behind a hill, and I heard an explosion.” Mrs Davey said that there was no rain at the time, and only a moderate wind.

EXPLODED IN AIR

Mr Bennett said: “I was working on my farm when the plane came over. “As I watched it, it gave a loud roaring noise, and began cutting out and back-firing. “It was losing height, and when it was quite low — I would not like to estimate the exact height — it exploded in the air. “The bodies of two men were thrown clear, and the wreckage of the plane scattered over hundreds of yards. “The two men thrown clear were killed instantly, and the rest of the occupants were burnt to death when the plane burst into flames- “The whole thing happened in a split second. After I had rushed to the telephone and notified the Redesdale Post Office, I ran to the scene. “I could do nothing to help, as all on board the plane must have been killed instantly. “The ground on which the plane crashed is flat and cleared. It is stony, but there are no trees.”

PART FELL OFF

Two more eye-witnesses were Miss Mary Cullen and Mr Stan Cullen, who live on an adjoining farm. They stated that the plane turned over in the air several times, after which a portion fell off although they could not distinguish which part. Two men were thrown clear while the craft was still in the air, and after hitting the ground, the plane burst into flames. The machine was certified as airworthy before it left the ground, and both members of the crew were in good health, Australian National Airways stated. Arrangements were being made to resume the service immediately.

10 DIE IN PLANE CRASH TODAY (1945, January 31). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved January 28, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245334712

INQUIRY BEING MADE ON THE SPOT

An official inquiry into the airworthiness of the Stinson aircraft which crashed at Redesdale and the causes of the accident will be held in accordance with departmental procedure.

Officials of the company stated that either the company, with the approval of the Civil Aviation Department, or the department would issue an official statement on the accident after a complete investigation on the spot.

No indication of the crash was received by the company radio control. The pilots reported on the usual quarter hour schedules, and a few minutes before the disaster had reported all well.

The Stinson concerned is one of the best known civil planes In Australia, and has flown on many routes. She once had three engines. but was converted to two more powerful engines about two years ago.

SOME OF VICTIMS

Captain Murn, who was in charge of the plane, came to civil flying from the RAAF in February 1944, and had been on continuous service since. He had had considerable experience of flying passenger and freight types, and had logged 1100 hours.

The second officer, Mr Oppenshaw, came to the company from New Zealand in August last. He had flown there with Air Travel Ltd. and Air Works Ltd., and had logged 1600 hours.

Mr Kerr and his son were passengers to Broken Hill.

Mr John Gordon Jensen was appointed a cadet engineer at the Commonwealth munitions factory at Footscray in March, 1937 after service in the Forest Products Division of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. After serving in various grades, he obtained the degree of Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering at the Melbourne University in 1941. In March, 1943, he became production manager at the Mildura munitions factory. He was returning from the departmental office. Mr Jensen, who was a son of Mr J. K. Jensen, Secretary of the Department of Munitions and chairman of the Secondary Industries Commission, was married late last year.

Mr Roy Fairfax Richardson, of Faircroft Avenue, Gardiner, who was a mechanical supervisor of the Allied Works Council, was on his way to Mildura.

Mr John Tayleur, of Dandenong Road, Windsor, who was a works supervisor of the A.W.C., was travelling to Lake Boga.

Kevin Lawn, 10, and Peter Lawn. 11, were the elder of four sons of Mr Frank Lawn, of the State Savings Bank. Kerang. They had been spending a month’s holiday with their aunt. Mrs M. J. Keleher, of Oakleigh Road, Glenhuntly. They had previously flown several times between their homes and Melbourne. Mrs Keleher expressed fears last night of their travelling today, but others, including the two boys, did not share in the premonition.

In the past six years only one fatal accident has occurred with A.N.A. planes. This was when three lives were lost In May, 1942. off Flinders Island. Since then the company has flown 178,263,537 passenger miles, carrying 370,113 passengers on flights aggregating 19,856,673 actual miles.

PREVIOUS CRASHES

In 14 previous major air disasters, involving the loss of civilians and civil aircraft, the death roll was 104. This Includes those killed in the Canberra tragedy, when 10 were killed in a RAAF bomber.

The list is:— December 31. 1930 — Queensland Air Navigation Co.’s Star of Cairns crashed at Maryborough (Q.). Pilot and passenger killed. March 21, 1931.— Southern Cloud disappeared between Sydney and Melbourne. No trace found of six passengers and two pilots. September 17, 1932. — New England Airways plane flying from Sydney to Brisbane crashed near Byron Bay (N.S.W.). Two pilots and passenger killed. October 2, 1934. — DH86 Loina crashed into Bass Strait. Five lost. October 3, 1934.— Qantas mail plane Atlanta crashed at Winton (Q.). Pilot and two passengers burnt to death. October 19. 1934.— DH86 Miss Hobart crashed into Bass Strait. Twelve lost, November 15, 1934. — Qantas Empire Airways DH86 crashed near Longreach (Q.) on final stage of flight from England. Four killed. February 19, 1936. — Waso Air Lines Gannet plane crashed at Cordeaux Dam (N.S.W.). Pilot and four passengers killed. February 19, 1937.— Airlines of Australia Stinson crashed into mountain near Beaudesert (Q.) on flight to Sydney. Two of crew and three passengers killed. Two survivors found 11 days later at wreck. March 28. 1937.— Airlines of Australia Stinson crashed in take-off at Archerfield Aerodrome, Brisbane. Pilot and passenger killed. August 30, 1938. — North Queensland Airways’ Dragon Rapide crashed near Innisfail (Q.). Five killed. October 25, 1938. — A.N.A. Douglas DC2 Kyeema crashed into Mount Dandenong. Four of crew and 14 passengers killed. January 18, 1939.— Guinea Air ways Lockheed Karanga crashed at Katherine (N.T.). Four killed. August 13, 1940.— RAAF bomber crashed at Canberra. Mr G. A. Street, Mr J. V. Fairbairn. Sir Henry Gullett, General Sir Brudenell White and six others killed July 20, 1941. — Guinea Airways plane crashed into hillside in fog at Mt. Kitchener, 7 miles from Tanunda. S.A. Pilot and six passengers killed.

PRIME MINISTER’S DEEP REGRET CANBERRA.— The Prime Minister (Mr Curtin) said this afternoon that he had learned with the deepest regret of the shocking accident which had cost Australia the lives of valuable men doing great work for the nation. They were fine men whom Australia could not afford to lose.

10 DIE IN PLANE CRASH TODAY (1945, January 31). The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved January 28, 2020, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245334712