Wayne Schofield with his daughters Shelby, left, and Meredith at last year’s Anzac Day March.
Wayne Schofield with his daughters Shelby, left, and Meredith at last year’s Anzac Day March. Canberra Times

Dying pilot consoled by survivor

THE family of Canberra chopper crash victim Wayne Schofield has told of their gratitude to two unknown military personnel who volunteered to spend a night in remote Central Queensland bush to guard the body of their husband and father.

The family has also revealed to The Canberra Times, Mr Schofield, 54, sent a final text message to his loved ones minutes before he died.

Mr Schofield and pilot Haydn Redfern, of Cairns, both died after a six-seater AS350 Squirrel plunged into dense vegetation deep in the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area, 80km north of Rockhampton, on Thursday.

Amazingly, Mr Schofield's friend Ken Purbrick survived.

Mr Purbrick, 53, has spoken to southern media about his horrific ordeal.

A Rockhampton Hospital spokesman yesterday said Mr Purbrick was refusing media requests for interviews, however, The Sunday-Mail yesterday reported the ex-army man saying he was forced to cut himself free from the wreckage.

The paper said he had tried to console the critically injured Mr Redfern as the pilot lay dying.

"The only reason I survived was the way it (the helicopter) landed," Mr Purbrick said.

"The engine gearbox was right beside me and that stopped that part of the helicopter from being squashed.

"I could hear (the pilot) but I couldn't get to him. I just tried to keep talking to him to keep him conscious."

Mr Purbrick called the authorities after managing to cut himself free with a knife.

His right shoulder was crushed in the crash.

Meanwhile, Mr Schofield's family told The Canberra Times the text message he sent them shortly before his death contained a photograph of the helicopter he was about to board.

Due to the isolated location, the family received the photo 40 minutes after he died.

A chalk board in the kitchen of the Schofields' Canberra home still had another note to his family written before he flew to Queensland on Monday: "I love you all. See you on the 16th. Love Dad xxx".

"He had never written a message on that chalk board before," wife of 34 years Ellen said.

Both Mr Schofield and Mr Purbrick were senior consultants with PS Management Consultants and had been hired to carry out checks on Defence radio communication towers.

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