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Currumbin Beach, South East Queensland.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

THE STINSEN SEVEN


When we were in the jungle on O'Reilley's Plateau a few weeks ago we were reminded of the story of the Stinson aeroplane crash. The plane with two pilots and five passengers  left Brisbane for Sydney on 19 Feb 1937. It was to stop at Lismore on the way. It was very bad cyclonic weather. When the plane didn't arrive in Lismore it was thought that it had flown direct to Sydney down the coast. When it didn't arrive in Sydney search planes were sent out to look for the Stinson. By Feb 26 the search was called off.
Ninety years ago the only access to the plateau was by foot or horseback up a narrow track carved into the mountains by the O'Reilleys, eight Irish cousins who started farming in the area. One branch of the family set up a guesthouse. In 1937 Bernard O'Reilley and his wife Viola were running the guesthouse. It was 26 Feb before Bernard heard the news of the Stinson. He believed the plane would have gone into the mountains on the way to Lismore.
 This monument at O'Reilley's Guest House tells the story of Bernard's amazingly brave search for the Stinson in the jungle clad, rugged mountains of Lamington National Park.

 Bernard draws a line on the map of the route of the plane.

 He cut his way through jungle, he cimbed slippery cliffs, he was scratched by thorns and plagued by leeches for 2 days. He climbed a tree and saw a burnt tree in the distance.

 After eight more gruelling hours he lost sight of the spot due to low clouds but he thought he heard a voice calling. He followed the sound and called back. When he arrived he found two survivors, Joe Binstead 54 and John Proud 30). The bodies of the two pilots (Rex Boyden 41 and Beverley Shepherd 26) and two passengers (William Fountain, James Graham 55) were dead in the burnt out wreckage.

 One other survivor, James Westray, 26 had gone for help but Bernard found him sitting at the bottom of a waterfall dead after an obvious fall had crushed his ankle..

Bernard left a few supplies for them and returned to the guest house to get help. Proud had a broken leg and Binstead was badly burnt and lacerated from walking to a creek to get water and berries every day for Proud. Bernard ran most of the way back travelling through the night, wading through creeks and jumping over rocks.
Fianally after 13 hours he reached a farm and he was given a horse for the rest of the way. He then organised a group of volunteers and a doctor  and took them back to bring out the survivors on stretchers.
The bodies of the dead men were in a too badly damaged state to bring out and they were buried at the site under rocks. Later a family member had an obelisk erected on Mt Lindsay at Border Gate for James Westray, the survivor who tried to get help. You need to be a very fit, hardened bushwalker to reach these burial sites.

33 comments:

  1. that is an amazing story of fortitude, determination and compassion. what a wonderful man to go through so much for his fellow man

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  2. Courage, what a great story.
    was it ever made into a film ?

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    1. Check out "The Riddle of the Stinson" starring Jack Thompson as Bernard O'Reilly.

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  3. I love this monument - such an ingenious way of telling the story.

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  4. That's Australia for you!

    ....it always amuses me too, how many places are named in the heat of the moment, esp by exhausted explorers... eg Cape Tribulation, Mount Disappointment etc

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  5. Diane, it is an amazing story and a beautiful monument. It does sound like it would make a great movie. I hope you have a great day!

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  6. Beautiful monument. Whatr an amazing yet terrible tragic story. I can't help but feel sorry for James Westray. To have survived the crash only to die whilst attempting to help the others. So sad.

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  7. What a crueling story to crash in the bush and no phones to get some help in those days. The rescuer dit a great job to save them. It is a very nice monument to read the story and a tribute to the brave men.

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  8. I am always reluctant to heap praise on the old time Aussie bloke, but it certainly seems to be deserved in this case. I knew nothing of this disaster, so thanks.

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  9. a fitting memorial to the ones who did not survive, those etched stones are wonderful. or maybe it is metal. i can't imagine living on water and i know it had to be hard to catch it in that flask.

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  10. An amazing story! And such perseverance by Bernard.

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  11. Fabulous story, Diane. I have the greatest admiration for people who risk their lives for others in this way, whether voluntarily as Bernard did, or as organized search and rescue workers. I agree it is just tragic about James Westray, who died while trying to get help. He was one of the brave few, as well.
    K

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  12. Amazing story -- to think what would have happened if that one man hadn't decided to search. That is truly making a difference.

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  13. Wow, what an amazing rescue story. He was a real hero, as was the other young man who died trying tyo get help for his friends. You know those families that settled in remote areas like that had to be cut from tough cloth.

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  14. Fascinating story and without someone like O'Reilley the survivors would have perished. He most certainly should be called a hero.

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  15. I've heard the story but haven't seen the memorial before.

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  16. What an interesting pictorial memorial to this unfortunate group of men. I'm glad there were some survivors and that the deceased had the memorial built to remember them.

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  17. Hah! good choice for a post, Diane. I was up at O'Reillys in January 2011 and knew much of it. One of the options was to go on a hike to the area. However, I desperately needed to wash my hair that day!

    It is interesting to read the newspapers of the day in their library. Great little room that. Like being in a gaming lodge in Africa, I imagine.

    I suspect there are quite a few stories like this all around Australia of which few of us are aware.

    The entire O'Reilly story is an inspiration, and I recommend to readers to take a punt and travel up their mountain. Just the bird life makes it immensely worth while.

    Thanks for this post to TT, Diane.

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  18. Waiting for supper (a freshly fished big fish) I just could read this interesting story !

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  19. What an amazing story of determination as well as bravery and kindness too.

    You two are looking very good!

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  20. It was incredible to read this story and to see the monument. The ordeals that Bernard endured to get to the survivors were so heroic. Thanks Diane, I'd never heard about this before.

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  21. a very fascinating story of survival, determination, and sacrafice!! The Memorial is quite informative with the story written in stone that will last for many years to come...

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  22. a very fascinating story of survival, determination, and sacrafice!! The Memorial is quite informative with the story written in stone that will last for many years to come...

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  23. Great post, Wonderful to see the bas reliefs commemorating this amazing story.

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  24. What an amazing story. Bernard O'Reilley must have been a very strong and determined man to find the survivors and rescue them under those conditions.

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  25. There have been may plane crashes since but this it the one that has captured the nations imagination I think. It is in such a beautiful area too ... I enjoyed reliving the walk with you in the post below.

    Now to go see what you have done with Red.

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  26. This is so interesting...they did a lot to find them

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  27. It's an interesting story on a nice monument.
    Have a good day.
    Greetings from Switzerland
    Angela

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  28. Perishing by plane crash is my greatest fear ... but out of that great tragedy comes inspiration!!

    I'm catching up on my reading now that a dodgy internet connection has been restored - I've caught the rest of the posts I've missed on Google Reader!!

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  29. Heartwarming story - so glad the two survived.

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  30. great art work, thanks for sharing
    Regards

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  31. What a wonderful tribute to such bravery. P.S. I love this photo of you. You both look like you are having the times of your lives with all your wonderful travels!

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