Courier Mail Stinson Article

From an article found in the courier mail

Read the original article by Brendan O’Malley

March 01, 2009 11:00pm

┬áSEVENTY-two years ago, Bernard O’Reilly’s gut instinct told him a missing Stinson plane had come down near his guest house in Lamington National Park.

As far as hunches go, this one was a beauty. It led to the most famous tale of survival in Queensland history.

“Experts” were scouring the coastline in northern New South Wales, convinced the seven crew and passengers of the ill-fated Airlines of Australia trimotor had made a forced landing on a remote beach.

A huge search effort involving every light aircraft between Brisbane and Sydney (at one stage more than 40 planes), plus hundreds of searchers on the ground, chased up dozens of conflicting eyewitness reports.

The search was called off on February 25, just days before O’Reilly broke the news of his discovery.

The dramatic rescue of John Proud and Joe Binstead was front page news.

“Missing Stinson found in national park. Flame sweeps wreck. Two passengers alive,” screamed The Courier-Mail headline on March 1, 1937.

O’Reilly relayed the story to the newspaper over the telephone.

“I could not get it out of my mind that the plane might have gone no farther than the McPherson Range. As a long chance, and to satisfy my curiosity, I set out on foot at lunch time on Saturday,” he said.

It was a crazy undertaking. In those days before GPS, O’Reilly was trying to locate a small plane in 20,000ha of (then) largely trackless wilderness.

As a guide, he drew a line across an aerial map from Lismore to where the Stinson was last seen.

He set off with two loaves of bread, some butter and onions.

Despite the rugged terrain, he spotted a burned patch of bush and followed “coo-ees” from the two survivors, whose first words were “Come down here, we want to shake hands with you”. A third man, John Westray, had died 1km away after going for help.

Binstead later recounted how he crawled down a steep gorge to collect water each day for Proud, who had broken his leg, and collected berries for him which he painstakingly carried back in his mouth.

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