The Air Disaster Memorial has a dark history with vehicles

James Coleman 21 June 2021 44
Air Disaster Memorial at Fairbairn Pine Plantation

The Air Disaster Memorial at Fairbairn Pine Forest, where a RAAF plane full of government officials crashed in 1940. Photo: James Coleman.

It’s 10:00 pm one night in the year 2000, and Casie and her three friends have pulled into a small clearing in a dense pine forest. They’re here to see what all the fuss is about.

“We parked up, leaving the car running with the lights on,” she says.

“After sitting there for a couple of minutes, the engine just stopped. At first, we didn’t think anything of it. The lights were still on, and I had a torch in the back of the car, so we opened the bonnet to see if we could work out what had happened.

“It was quiet at first, then all of a sudden we heard what sounded like a few girls screaming and crying. At this point, we all freaked out and jumped back in the car, desperately trying to start it. This went on for about 10 minutes. Eventually, the car started and we left. I have never been back since. We never actually saw anything, but I’ll never forget the sounds of the screaming and crying.”

Casie and her friends aren’t alone – in more ways than one, it seems.

The Air Disaster Memorial is a large granite monolith and plaque halfway up a gentle hill in Fairbairn Pine Forest, about 1.5 km from Pialligo Avenue. A large ‘traffic island’ in the shape of an aeroplane wing and another plaque were added later.

Access used to be via a dirt road, which crossed over a cattle grid and lead straight up, but given this now forms part of a ‘dangerous’ military testing site, walking from the paintball entrance is the only way in today.

Entrance to Fairbairn Pine Forest

The entrance to the Fairbairn Pine Forest from Pialligo Avenue (the gate is shut every day at 6:00 pm). Photo: James Coleman.

I’m here at 3:00 pm on a Sunday, ostensibly because there’s natural light for photos. But visiting at night has become somewhat of a dare among locals.

Since the 1970s, reports abound of mysterious noises and figures, but also things happening to cars – stalling, failing to start, radios flicking on and off, lights going out, and moving while in ‘park’ with the handbrake on.

Sceptics might dismiss ‘ghost stories’ as nothing more than overexposure to alcohol or otherwise, but there is something objective about your car suddenly deciding not to work properly.

Like every ghost story ever, these originate from a scene of grisly deaths.

On 13 August 1940, three Commonwealth ministers and the Chief of the General staff were flying in from Melbourne. This was in the thick of World War II and they would be meeting with Prime Minister Robert Menzies to think tank Australia’s efforts.

On the approach to Canberra Airport, however, the RAAF Lockheed Hudson stalled and smashed into the hillside. If the impact didn’t instantly kill everyone on board, the subsequent flames did.

Given the who and the when, it became a national disaster with no shortage of conspiracy theories.

Track along fence line at Fairbairn Pine Forest

It is quite hard to get lost in Fairbairn Pine Forest. Photo: James Coleman.

Thirty years later, in May of 1971, a walker stumbled upon the remains of a young girl.

Twenty-year-old Keren Rowland had been murdered 15 metres from the track three months prior. It remains a cold case. Police recently picked it up again in December last year.

A quick poll of the Queanbeyan Community Notice Board on Facebook reveals that about 25 per cent of respondents have experienced something chilling involving them or their car while visiting the memorial.

Road in the military testing zone

You get the idea – it’s not terribly safe around the military testing zone. Photo: James Coleman.

Tim the Yowie Man has led ghost tours to the Air Disaster Memorial for 20 years and says that through the 1970s to 1990s, many young drivers would head there as a sort of maiden voyage on getting their licence.

“As a result, the cars were those of 18 to 22-years-olds who usually could only afford pretty poor quality or old cars,” he says.

“To what extent it was a case of the car’s malfunctioning… needs to be considered.”

Tim, or TYM as he’s often called, recounts his own experience.

“One time we were all out of the bus at the memorial when suddenly the lights on the inside of the bus flashed. My colleague, Tinny, said, ‘Good one, John!’ But John the driver said, ‘I’m over here!’ He was behind us, the bus was empty.”

I think I’ve got all my photos now.

The Air Disaster Memorial plaque

The Air Disaster Memorial plaque spells out the names of the 10 men who lost their lives here. Photo: James Coleman.


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44 Responses to The Air Disaster Memorial has a dark history with vehicles
Tina Easton Tina Easton 8:17 pm 21 Jun 21

Karen Nicholls Corey Nicholls Les Eite some funny funny times spent here 🤣🤣❤

    Les Eite Les Eite 9:44 pm 21 Jun 21

    Tina Easton haha how many times did we all get lost

Sam Warry Sam Warry 4:00 pm 20 Jun 21

Capital Crime Files has done an amazing job at telling the sad story of Keren Rowland. Also goes into amazing detail describing the pine forest…a very eerie place

    Capital Crime Files Capital Crime Files 6:37 pm 20 Jun 21

    Sam Warry and wrote about and had an event last year to mark the 80th anniversary of the air disaster.

    https://www.google.com.au/amp/s/citynews.com.au/2020/horror-plane-crash-that-destroyed-a-government/amp/

Ryan Jones Ryan Jones 1:40 pm 20 Jun 21

Yep an U screaming an crying

Georgia Morris Georgia Morris 12:12 pm 20 Jun 21

Hayden Hall nothing happened to us 👀

Paul South Paul South 8:57 am 20 Jun 21

Dark nights .. pentagrams of rocks .. weid mushrooms . Strange lights

    Dan Gain Dan Gain 12:41 pm 22 Jun 21

    Have you fully recovered from when you got "torn" from that probe?

Ana Fernandez Ana Fernandez 8:29 am 20 Jun 21

What you think Daniel Butters??

Every time I pass by the sign I wonder about what is in there, no idea that it was haunted. Now I want to go even more 🤣🤣

Fiona Anne Corrigan Fiona Anne Corrigan 12:10 am 20 Jun 21

Ryan Jones Lyndall Blake I always think of that night we went out there whenever I drive past it 😂😂😂 remember those purple people that were doing some weird rituals ☠️☠️☠️

    Paul South Paul South 8:59 am 20 Jun 21

    Was that the smurfs ? They hang around corin forest as well .

Ian Brown Ian Brown 12:09 am 20 Jun 21

Sarasi Perera meh.. ill believe it when I see it

    Sarasi Perera Sarasi Perera 12:27 am 20 Jun 21

    Ian Brown … yeah but do you want to see it 👀 not sure if I want to find out 💀👻🤪

Ann Summerfield Ann Summerfield 11:54 pm 19 Jun 21

Natalie Kay this brings back some memories from many years ago, when we decided to go for a drive up there at night, I’m sure Bernie was there as well, scared the crap out of us all 🤣

Dara Heng Dara Heng 11:12 pm 19 Jun 21

Peter Patrinos when you come in September 👌

Ian Naden Ian Naden 10:44 pm 19 Jun 21

We used to drive up there all the time.

Gerasimo Krikoni Gerasimo Krikoni 9:58 pm 19 Jun 21

Cars switched off

Kylie McLean Kylie McLean 9:55 pm 19 Jun 21

Teresa ghost tour when you get here 🤣

Shona Haddon Shona Haddon 9:55 pm 19 Jun 21

Lyn Tutt could this be the place where we saw the bright light that day from that mountain !!!! When we were working !!!!

    Rayleen Jordon Rayleen Jordon 10:12 pm 19 Jun 21

    Shona Haddon not even close...

    Shona Haddon Shona Haddon 10:17 pm 19 Jun 21

    Rayleen Jordon still want know what they were doing up there !!! UFO...🤣🤣🤣.

    Rayleen Jordon Rayleen Jordon 10:20 pm 19 Jun 21

    Shona Haddon lol. Maybe it was close to there I just didn't want to say it might be lol.

    It was a helicopter.

    Shona Haddon Shona Haddon 10:28 pm 19 Jun 21

    Rayleen Jordon stop with helicopter!!!!Hovered for 10mins give or take ,then slowly drifted out of sight ,not up and away😂😂😂...you and helicopter!!!!

    Lyn Tutt Lyn Tutt 5:57 pm 20 Jun 21

    Rayleen Jordon not a helicopter some random light

Kirsten Edwards Kirsten Edwards 9:47 pm 19 Jun 21

Definitely an eerie place.

James Sembel James Sembel 9:45 pm 19 Jun 21

Remember going here one night with some friend and we saw lights in the distance and started freaking out...then we realised it was just cars driving along Sutton Rd 😂😂

    Timothy Sombah Timothy Sombah 9:57 pm 19 Jun 21

    James Sembel you sure it wasn’t a kuntilanak? 😂😂

    Zion King Zion King 10:02 pm 19 Jun 21

    James Sembel iv done that too cuz 😂😂😂

    James Sembel James Sembel 10:55 pm 19 Jun 21

    Timothy Sombah Im really glad it wasn’t 😂

    Timothy Sombah Timothy Sombah 10:58 pm 19 Jun 21

    James Sembel Idt they could fly to aussie anyway 😂😂😂

Steph Jackman Steph Jackman 9:25 pm 19 Jun 21

Elizabeth How well timed..

Baz Seif Baz Seif 9:24 pm 19 Jun 21

Caddy Wood remember this place 👻

Sandy Woodhall Sandy Woodhall 9:20 pm 19 Jun 21

It definitely has an eerie vibe up there 🙃🙃

Vanessa Brown Vanessa Brown 8:46 pm 19 Jun 21

Harry Carman Darcy Carman Mackenzie Carman. This is where I used to rally drive many years ago..

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