In week one our Year 11 historians traced the heroic steps of Bernard O’Reilly, who rescued survivors from the notorious Stinson plane crash in Lamington National Park, 1937. This trip was an excellent opportunity for our students to absorb themselves in our rich local history and appreciate the ordeal of one of Australia’s legendary characters.
Bernard O’Reilly headed off in search of the survivors after predicting the plane had crashed in a cyclone over the Border Ranges, rather than over the ocean as newspapers suggested. He battled against steep terrain and thick jungle-like vegetation to come across two of the survivors and the plane wreckage itself. A third survivor, Jim Westray, had bravely left the others to get help but fell off a waterfall accidentally and tragically died. O’Reilly found his body and ensured he was given a respectful burial. He also safeguarded the lives of the two remaining survivors, assisting with their rescue.
We camped overnight at the Stinson Memorial Grounds and enjoyed the bush atmosphere on the banks of Christmas Creek, telling stories around the campfire and appreciating the endless night sky. The next morning we made our way along Christmas Creek to Westray’s Grave. Students were able to appreciate the immense bravery and grit of O’Reilly, who followed the same difficult path but without it being cleared and marked. We were very appreciative of modern technologies that might have made such a search more straight-forward, and marvelled at how O’Reilly accomplished the incredible task using a hunch and his bushman skills.
Ms Newton, Senior History Teacher