During the war years the army built the central bridge. When they finished they left these pontoons. My brother and I played on them all afternoon. We got to the point that we thought we owned them – giving other kids permission to join us. My dad’s friend saw us playing on the pontoon one day and instead of telling dad (which was a good thing in the long run) he went and told the police sergeant, who then came down to see us. Luckily for us he was on the west bank of the river and we were on the east bank. As soon as we saw the sergeant we ran off. That ruined everything as within a week the pontoons were gone. I was sour with my dad’s friend at the time, but ultimately the sergeant only gave us a fright whereas dad would have given us a fair bit more than that!
I can remember the 1950 Amana plane crash as plain as if it was yesterday. I was camped with my brother, Mick, at the time, and this particular night we went out spotlighting. We came home and went to bed and this plane flew over. It was very, very low. We jumped out of bed and ran out of the hut and all we could see was a big glow in the sky. The plane had crashed behind a hill. We were three miles away from the crash but the glow of the fire from the crash was incredibly bright. Mick and I decided to get the police and to take both the owner of the property we were camping on and our dad as close to the site as possible. I rode out on the back of a copper’s motorbike. We had to walk quite a distance through the bush too.
When we got there, there was a sergeant, a constable, a farmer and a fellow walking around. Well by the time we got there dad had settled him down and kept him warm and that, but this fellow was a survivor from the crash. I always admired that man. In those days if you were 64 you were an old person. He would have been at least that age. He was badly injured and the side of his face was burnt and the moisture was coming out of it, with the skin rolling down. All the time that we carried him from the crash site to the ambulance he never complained once. He kept saying ‘Well I don’t know how I’ll ever thank you fellows for what you’re doing for me.’ And unfortunately he passed away on the following Sunday. I’ll never forget that.
I saw one of the crew laying with his tunic over his head and his legs cut at the calf. Another male body lay on the ground with not a stitch of clothing on it. We walked up to one body feet first and where the head should have been was flat as a board. It appeared they’d been thrown out the plane and something lobbed on their head. Those were the only near enough to complete bodies I saw. Mostly there were only bits of humans. Let’s say one foot, cut off at the ankle – you could see the toes and toe nails. Another piece was the torso of a man only. There were pieces everywhere. And the plane, it just looked like a heap of rubbish scattered over a large oblong area. It was really frightening.
There were that many sightseers coming in to view the crash site in the following days that the property owners locked the gates. But people took the gates off their hinges to come in. About a week after the crash the owner was fuming; sightseers even had the hiding to wave at him as they drove passed onto his property to take a look. And they never put the gates back on their hinges. You’d find shoes and things all over the drive through the property; people would pick them up out of the crash site, get going, then realise what they’d picked wasn’t a good souvenir so they’d just throw it out.
It also disturbed me that there were these two other fellows that helped as much as the rest of us on that first night of the crash, but they never got any recognition at all. Not one mention in the paper or in any subsequent dedications about the crash.
There was an old fellow in town who believed that if you wanted a kangaroo you went out with a dog and caught it, - he didn’t like high powered rifles. He knew Mick and I had a high powered rifle out there. When someone asked him about the plane crash he said ‘Yea, them Micknamaras (he never called us the McNamaras) with their gun, you’ll never know what they’ll do’ insinuating that we had shot a four-engine plane down with a rifle.