THE northern beef cattle industry is mourning the loss of cattle station owner, Dougal Brett, who died after a helicopter accident in the Northern Territory on Sunday morning.
Mr Brett was the pilot and sole occupant of the helicopter at the time of the accident and leaves behind a wife and three young children.
A Careflight spokesman told the Northern Territory News that the helicopter pilot suffered critical injuries when he crashed into a river bed near Timber Creek.
He was flown by another helicopter to Kildurk Station to meet a Careflight crew, including a doctor and nurse, but unfortunately died en route to Royal Darwin Hospital.
Mr Brett and his wife Emily are the proprietors of Brett Cattle Company Pty Ltd, of Waterloo Station, Timber Creek, NT.
They are also the lead claimants in the class action claim filed in the Federal Court against the Commonwealth Government in October last year for losses incurred from the snap suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia in June 2011, by the former Labor government.
Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association (NTCA) president, Tom Stockwell, said he hadn’t yet thought about the implications of Mr Brett’s passing on the class action claim because the first priority was supporting the Brett family through the tragedy.
He said the loss was “clearly devastating news especially for the family but also for the rest of the industry”.
“It’s a small community and we’re all very close and the Bretts are a central part of it,” he said.
“If you were looking for a real picture of a northern cattle family and cattleman Dougal Brett and his family would be it.
“He was highly motivated and hard working and had an extremely optimistic view of the future and was working very hard to get Waterloo up and running.
“The family went out on a hell of a stretch to take on the station and got caught up in the live cattle suspension which came at the worst possible time - but they stepped up, into the breach and became the public face of the Indonesian crisis.
“But now, almost four years to the day since the suspension, when the whole thing went pear shaped, the markets are up, cattle prices are up and there’s a bit of daylight ahead and they’ve had this personal tragedy to deal with.
“The Brett family know that if there’s anything that the NTCA and the local industry can do, we’re there for them any way we can.”
NTCA CEO Tracey Hayes told ABC Radio Dougal Brett was a character and an industry leader who was also loved by the northern pastoral industry.
"They're a well-known family, a terrific young family," Ms Hayes said.
"Devastating for Emily, his young family, his parents, brother, and all involved at Waterloo.
"Dougal was a much-respected industry leader, a real character, a really hard worker."
Tributes of support for the Brett family and Dougal flowed on social media last night as news of the tragedy broke.
The cause of the crash is yet to be determined.