“The rescue of survivors of the Stinson plane crash 80 years ago was an iconic moment in Australian history, but the man behind the feat never felt he was a hero” Damien Larkins, ABC News.
The O’Reilly family, were in the right place, at the right time, a few pivotal moments in their lives and australia’s history. Setting up a dairy farm four years before the land around him was declared a National Park and then later a World Heritage listed area, ensured they had Green Mountains virtually to themselves, and in 1937 a Stinson aircraft with seven people on board, disappeared en route from Brisbane to Sydney. A massive search for the plane was launched, but based on conflicting eye-witness accounts, the search area was 800kms south in the Hawkesbury region. Days later the search was abandoned.
Bernard O’Reilly, who believed they had seen the plane fly over his brothers nearby farm, and was convinced it hadn’t crossed the border into NSW, went searching on his own. Making his own trail through dense rainforest and the steep terrain of the McPherson Range, relying solely on his bushman skills he found the wreck, two days after he set off, 8.4kms from the O’Reilly property. The pilots and two passengers had died, and of the three survivors one died going for help. Of the two remaining survivors one had a broken leg and the other was badly burnt from the fire that engulfed the plane when it crashed.
Bernard boiled the men a billy tea and gave them food, before heading back down the mountain at night, wading creeks and the hacking his way through the dense rainforest. Thirteen hours later he reached a farm where he was given a horse for the rest of the journey. Arriving back he organised a rescue party and doctor… then led them back to the crash site and helped bring the survivors down on stretchers. Talk about a feat of endurance!
In the 1980’s the Australian Army removed much of the wreckage via helicopter, but the skeletal remains of the aircraft is still there, and forms part of a hiking trail for very experienced and very fit bushwalkers.
It was our last day at O’Reillys so after breakfast and with Carole now on a walking stick instead of crutches we headed off for the Tree Top Walk. A series of nine suspension bridges soaring up to 30 metres off the forest floor. The walk is just across the road from reception and was the first of its kind in Australia. The boardwalk through the rainforest leads to a fig tree which is the start of the bridges. It was raining lightly and the forest was shrouded in mist as we started… but by the time we got back the sun was shining………
In the afternoon we went for a massage and foot treatment at O’Reillys Lost World Day Spa… fabulous treat..
That evening, with Carole now off the crutches we headed upstairs to the Rainforest Bar for our last happy hour, and and one and only sunset… followed by dinner and an early night. Next morning we were off down the mountain to Springbrook National Park and the Gold Coast
Next: Springbrook and Natural Bridge