The 2005 Nias Island Sea King crash was the crash of a Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Westland WS-61 Sea King helicopter (tail number N16-100, call sign “Shark 02”) of 817 Squadron RAN at approximately 4 pm (local time) on 2 April 2005 with 11 personnel on board. The accident occurred while “Shark 02” was making its approach to land on a sports field located near the village of Tuindrao in the region of Amandraya on the Indonesian island of Nias. “Shark 02” had been providing humanitarian support to the people of the earthquake-devastated region.
Nine personnel died in the accident, including six members of the RAN and three members of the Royal Australian Air Force.
Two personnel survived the crash: Navy Leading Seaman Shane Warburton, and Air Force Corporal Scott Nichols.
The state visit of President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, allowed him to present the Medal of Valour – his country’s highest honour – to each of the deceased, placing a medal on each casket. The two survivors were awarded with the honour at a later time.
The Indonesian award highlighted a problem of awarding similar honours by the Australian Government, as the servicemen and women had been part of a humanitarian operation at the time of the incident, not a military one. This was overcome by changing the circumstances for the award of the Humanitarian Overseas Service Medal, so that all who served in the Indonesian humanitarian mission would be eligible, including the nine deceased and two survivors.
On 17 March 2008, the actions of one of the survivors, former Leading Seaman Warburton, were recognised with Australia’s second highest bravery award, the Star of Courage. The Minister for Defence, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, said that Shane Warburton’s actions in saving a colleague while facing immense personal danger was a significant act of heroism worthy of such recognition. The Minister said his selfless act was particularly noteworthy given he himself was seriously injured in the accident.
On 26 May 2009, four Indonesian men – Benar Giawa, Adiziduhu Harefa, Motani Harefa and Seti Eli Ndruru – were awarded the Bravery Medal at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, for their role in rescuing the survivors of “Shark 02”. Together, they carried the men to safety away from the crash site, made the Australians comfortable and provided first aid.
In September 2005, the remains of the deceased ADF personnel were interred in a memorial at Russell Offices in Canberra