1974 Helicopter CrashPrint Page Print this page

The memorial plaque commemorates the lives lost and the bravery shown during the rescue mission of the A2-378 crash which killed two people in 1974.

In January 1974, Sgt Peter Vidler and FltLt Reginald Frederick Van Leuven died when the Iroquois helicopter they were flying crashed at “Cooinda” near Stanthorpe Queensland, after taking off from RAAF Amberley during a flood rescue mission. Peter died at the scene and Reg died the following day in hospital from his injuries. Four other RAAF personnel were also injured in the crash. Sgt Vidler had previously served in Vietnam.

Family members found healing at Saturday’s memorial ceremony for those involved in the A2-378 crash which killed two people in 1974. Mechanical failure caused the crash of the helicopter which was on a relief mission during the 1974 floods.

Flight Lieutenant Reg Van Leuven died a day after the crash in hospital, and Sergeant Peter Vidler died at the scene. Other members of the team were severely injured and suffered from broken bones.

The memorial was organised by Helen Vidler, the widow of Peter Vidler, with the aid of the No. 9 Squadron Association. It was held at the Finlay’s Cooinda property, at the same spot where the helicopter crashed 42 years ago. The ceremony marked the lives lost and the bravery shown during the rescue mission. During the memorial, RAAF members placed a plaque of remembrance at the crash site.

Mrs Vidler attempted to have a memorial installed at the same spot a number of years ago with the help of the Finlays, but unfortunately they had their request denied. Mrs Vidler, not wanting to give up on her husband’s memory, approached the No. 9 Squadron for help. After four months of planning, getting permission from the air force for the use of the logo, the memorial was ready. Steve Hartigan, the secretary for the squadron, said the squadron was more than happy to help Mrs Vidler bring the memorial together.

Mrs Vidler first saw the site of the crash in October 2015 with Peter’s brother David. She described finally seeing the memorial put in place as “very healing.” Sandi Johnsson, the younger sister of the pilot who died, Flight Lieutenant Van Leuven, said seeing where the accident happened was also healing. “It brings us some peace and it’s wonderful to see where it happened,” she said.

Margaret Finlay still lives on the farm and was first on the scene with a friend. She recalled seeing the helicopter as it flew nearby and noticing it was in trouble. Mrs Finlay stayed and helped care for and comfort the survivors.

The same tree that the helicopter hit on its descent still stands, and the Finlays have made sure it has been preserved over the years. “It was important to the families for the future,” Mrs Finlay said.

Two of the surviving members of the helicopter crash attended the memorial, while another was too ill to attend. Organisers were unable to contact the final survivor.
Stanthorpe Border Post, 9 February 2016. 


Address:Inverary Road, Cooinda Station, via Stanthorpe, Stanthorpe, 4380
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -28.45466
Long: 151.63909
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Plaque
Monument Theme:Disaster


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Tuesday 9th February, 2016
Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au
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