Photographer and wife killed in helicopter accident

By AAP and AG Staff 10 November 2015
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Vale environmentalists Richard and Carolyn Green, and filmmaker John Davis.

PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD GREEN and his wife Carolyn, a graphic artist, along with filmmaker John Davis, have been killed in a helicopter crash while travelling to Sydney from northern NSW.

Authorities say they found the wreckage of the couple’s private helicopter, which Richard described as his “pride and joy”, in NSW’s Hunter region on Monday night.

The trio went missing on Saturday evening after they left a mining protest in Breeza, south of Tamworth.

Authorities were alerted on Monday morning that the helicopter hadn’t reached its destination, sparking a search involving 10 helicopters and a plane. The flight should have taken two hours.

Richard and Carolyn Green (Credit: Richard Green Photography)

Dick Smith among search party

Australian Geographic founder Dick Smith joined the search in his aircraft after receiving a concerned call from John’s wife.

Dick had known John for more than 50 years, after the filmmaker became one of the first people to successfully climb Balls Pyramid, a rock spire near Lord Howe Island, in 1965. Dick himself had attempted and failed to climb it himself in 1964.

Dick was also friends with entrepreneurs-turned-photographers Richard and Carolyn Green, who had, alongside Dick, used the Sydney suburb of Terry Hills as a base for their helicopter since the 1980s.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says the helicopter crashed on mountainous terrain covered with dense vegetation.

A paramedic confirmed there were no survivors after being winched down to the crash site in the Watagans National Park, south of Cessnock. No mayday calls or emergency beacons were detected on Saturday, when severe storms hit the Hunter region.

Love of remote ‘helicamping’

Richard and Carolyn spent much of their time flying their beloved EC135 helicopter, travelling to the most remote parts of Australia to photograph the landscape on so-called ‘helicamping’ expeditions. Richard was famous for using high resolution digital cameras and combining many photographs to create intense and detailed panoramic images.

In an article penned for Australian Geographic following the publication of their book, Remote & Wild, in 2010Carolyn wrote: 

“Over the years the list of interesting sightings has grown long, as everything that creeps, crawls or flies never fails to capture our attention, and we have been lucky enough to see some fascinating creatures. We marvel at their beauty and colour, their exquisite markings, and their ability to survive in extraordinarily harsh conditions.”

Both the Greens were licensed pilots. “Being able to fly our own helicopter provides an opportunity to get to the most inaccessible places,” Richard said. “The EC135, which we have operated since 1999, is my pride and joy.”

Environmentalists to the end

Before all three left the Breeza Property on Saturday, the trio asked for GPS coordinates for Whitehaven Coal’s Werris Creek Coal Mine.

Farmer Andrew Pursehouse, who owns the property the Greens’ helicopter took off from, said Richard wanted to fly over the mine on his way back to Sydney.

“There is a more serious side to our work. Debate about climate change and its inevitable impact continues to stimulate discussion,” Richard wrote on his website.

“We therefore hope that these images will add to the growing public awareness of the beauty of our natural environment and encourage and support the desire to protect it.”