Star's son injured in Black Hawk accident

By: Tony Koch and Rory Callinan

THE son of Bush Tucker Man Les Hiddins was among six soldiers injured when a Black Hawk helicopter crashed near Amberley RAAF base southwest of Brisbane this week.
The crash, which left Lieutenant Tim Hiddins and three other soldiers in hospital, was believed to have occurred as a trainee army pilot undertook a ``pedal turn'' -- a difficult manoeuvre designed to help the helicopter evade pursuit by sudden direction changes.
Lt Hiddins, who was in a stable condition in the Royal Brisbane Hospital yesterday, said he had been advised not to comment on the cause of the crash or who was at the controls.
His father Les, a Vietnam War veteran who found international fame after starring in a documentary series on bush tucker, had said last year his son had been undergoing conversion training from fixed-wing aircraft to helicopters and had been transferred from Townsville to Oakey Army Aviation base.
An army helicopter instructor who asked not to be named said the pedal-turn manoeuvre would have been particularly difficult in the hot, humid conditions, possibly resulting in the helicopter's tail dipping rapidly to a level where it might collide with a tree or the ground.
Eight soldiers were on board at the time of the crash, which occurred seconds after the helicopter reportedly hit a stand of gum trees in a cow paddock at Mt Walker, southwest of Amberley on Thursday.
A trainee pilot, 23, and his instructor, 33, were at the controls with four other trainees and two loadmasters in the rear. None of the six suffered life-threatening injuries. Two were listed as being in serious but stable conditions. One is to undergo an operation on a suspected spinal fracture over the weekend while another was recovering from surgery for a broken wrist and knee. Another soldier who suffered a whiplash type of neck injury was being held for observation at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. Investigators are expected to interview the men over the next few days.
Military sources have said pilot error was being investigated as the cause of the crash. The anti-fighter drill involves low-level flying at speeds of over 300km/h to avoid mock attacks from pursuing jet fighters.
Flight training in the area has been suspended until Monday in order to facilitate the investigation team probing the crash but helicopter operations in East Timor would continue as normal, an army spokesman said yesterday.
The spokesman said the crash did not have ``broader implications'' for the Black Hawk fleet.
Les Hiddins could not be contacted for comment yesterday. He is the author of several books on bush tucker and stories of bush exploration. He retired from the army in 1989 with the rank of major. More recently he sparked controversy after he and a group of Vietnam veterans lobbied the State Government for a block of government-owned land in north Queensland to be set aside as a park of peace and recreation for retired soldiers.