Memorial to police revealed
26 years since crash claimed three officersDEIDRE MUSSEN
A tragic chapter of police history has closed with the unveiling of a memorial to three policemen killed in a helicopter crash near Franz Josef 26 years ago today.
Families, friends, survivors, rescuers and colleagues gathered outside the West Coast township's police station today for a service honouring the men killed during the Coppers for Charity countrywide run.
Inspector Tony Lynch, 38, and Senior Constable Bob Krom, 48, both of Christchurch, and Constable Doug Dowie, 40, of Dunedin, were killed when their helicopter crashed near Lake Wombat while returning from a scenic flight over Franz Josef Glacier.
Senior Constable Keith de Dulin, then aged 40, of Christchurch, and Constable Matt Scully, then 30, of Invercargill, survived the flight and attended today's service.
Glacier Helicopters pilot Trevor Small also survived.
An emotional Senior Constable Anthony Price told about 90 people today that he had organised the free scenic flight as thanks to police officers in the fundraiser run.
''I do hold on to some burden. I feel this [memorial] is a closure of a chapter in the book but not the closure of the book.''
At the time, Price was a sole-charge police officer in nearby Whataroa.
He told of the horror of hearing the chopper crash only a few minutes flying from the landing pad, where colleagues were waiting.
''We heard a large crash followed by silence. Then panic.''
Within five minutes, he was among others in the air for a desperate search for the stricken chopper in thick bush.
That night, the three badly injured survivors were airlifted from the scene.
''The tragic loss of Tony, Bob and Doug will never be forgotten. Rest in peace my friends,'' Price said.
He said he tried yesterday to find the crash site but the bush had reclaimed it.
Widows Wendy Lynch, Lorraine Krom and Kay Dowie praised police for the memorial to their husbands.
''I think it's a fitting tribute and it's like a closure for us. I don't know why we didn't do it sooner,'' Kay Dowie said afterwards.
She said they had never met before the crash but had become close friends over the years, their children also having a strong connection together in their grieving for their fathers.
As Wendy Lynch watched today's service, she clasped her first grandson, 11-week-old Jack Anthony Lynch, who was named after her husband.
Acting Police Commissioner Viv Rickards told the service of the fallen police officers' dedication to the police force and how they had been destined to go far before their lives were cut short.
He acknowledged the loss suffered by their families.
''Even though it's a while ago, we still remember them.''
De Dulin and Scully later recounted their memories of the helicopter ramming into a tree and realising their predicament once they regained consciousness, Scully suspended upside down and de Dulin face down in the wreckage.
Both suffered broken bones and wounds, spending months in hospital.
''I got a stick in my neck and bits came out over the next few weeks,'' Scully said after today's service, the scar still visible.
After missing their colleagues' funerals because they were still in hospital, they said today's service was a good opportunity to reconnect with the men's families as well as their rescuers.
Former Franz Josef constable Paul Gurney, now the Chatham Islands' sole police officer, organised the memorial, funded by the Police Association, with former police officer Vince Nolan, who was an organiser of the 1986 charity run.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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