Blackhawk Tragedy

Deaths during training accidents make up the majority of the SASR’s fatalities. The worst accident in the Regiment’s history occurred on 12 June 1996 when two S-70A Blackhawks from the 5th Aviation Regiment carrying SASR troopers collided during a live fire counter-terrorism/special recovery operation exercise at Fire Support Base Barbara in the High Range Training Area at Townsville, Queensland.

This activity was part of Exercise DAY ROTOR 96 and took place on the second day of the exercise sometime after 6:30pm in the evening requiring the pilots to use night vision goggles. Thirty seconds from the Landing Zone (LZ) one of the helicopters veered to the right, clipping the tail rotor of a second aircraft. Both aircraft caught fire, with one Black Hawk crashing immediately while the other was able to make a crash landing. The moments that followed were marked by outstanding heroism as crash survivors and soldiers from the other helicopters risked the flames and exploding ammunition to rescue their comrades and retrieve the bodies of the dead.

Fifteen members of the SASR and three members of the 5th Aviation Regiment lost their lives in the accident while 14 personnel were given official recognition for their part in the rescue and evacuation operations.