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12 May, 2021

60 years ago, Longreach changed forever...

Published in the Longreach Leader, May 19 1961, an article reporting on a plane crash near Longreach that killed five men.

Published in the Longreach Leader, May 19 1961, following a plane crash near Longreach that killed five men.

Originally published in The Longreach Leader, May 19, 1961.

It Was Last Flight 

The five men were killed in what was to have been the last of a series of short demonstration flights given by Mr Edward George Binning, 45, sales pilot, a former United States, Vice Admiral, who had ferried the new plane from America.  

The blue Beechcraft Baron took off about 9.30am, and reportedly crashed just beyond the town common to the west.  

It was not until 3.45pm that a searching plane found the wreckage. 

Those who died with Mr Binning were: 

David Charles Hugh Barrett, 42, owner of Leander Station, near Longreach, former shire councillor and Grazier's Association official. 

John Joseph Smith, 39 of Wompoo Street, manager of Somerset Airways, Longreach. 

William David Taylor, 25, of Crane Street Longreach, representative of the optometrical firm of Sankey Fraser Edmiston.  

Robert Ferguson, 50, radio technician with the Department of Civil Aviation, Longreach. 

Mr. Barrett left a widow and seven children aged from 4 to 15, and Mr Smith a widow and five children aged up to 14.  

Mr Ferguson had been at Longreach only a few weeks. He is survived by his wife and three children. 

Mr Taylor, who was single, lived with his mother. 

The State Government Pathologist Dr J. I. Tonge flew from Brisbane on Saturday morning with the investigation team to conduct the post-mortem examinations. 

It was mid-afternoon when these were completed. 

The funerals of Messrs Smith and Barrett were conducted later that day.  

The Church of England was crowded for both services.  

The corteges were two of the longest ever seen in Longreach. 

Mr Smith’s body was buried in the Longreach Cemetery within sight of his home. 

After the late service for Mr Barrett, nearly 100 cars followed the hearse 15 miles to Leander Station. 

There, in the silence of the early night, he was buried beneath a beautiful tall gum.  

Marching returned servicemen paid both men a moving tribute as they moved through a main street over which hung half-mast flags. 

The other three bodies were flown to Brisbane on a special plane on Sunday. 

The funerals of Messrs Taylor and Ferguson were held in Brisbane on Tuesday. 

Mr Binning’s body is to be flown to America for burial in the Arlington Memorial Cemetery in Washington. 

The tragedy was one of the most stunning blows ever inflicted on Longreach. 

Many tributes have since been paid to the victims. 

On Saturday the Rotary Club collected £200 with which to help families. 

Some of this was used immediately, and the balance was put into a fund established by the Shire Council on Monday when the nine councilors put in their £5 election refund cheques. 

The fund to help the families of Messrs Smith and Ferguson, will remain open until June 2. 

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