Chopper crash robs family of doting dad

Tayissa BaroneThe West Australian
Justin 'Juddy' McDonald with wife Mel and son Trent
Camera IconJustin 'Juddy' McDonald with wife Mel and son Trent Credit: The West Australian

When Justin "Juddy" McDonald carried his young son Trent to the car last Monday, the nearly 15-month-old's beaming smile said it all.

It was, as Mel McDonald puts it, "a lovely morning with some very precious memories".

She and Trent were leaving their home at Yeeda Station near Derby for a week-long trip to Perth and Mr McDonald was preparing for a muster at Springvale Station near Halls Creek.

"I was glad he was going to Springvale because he loved it up there and it would be two fewer nights he had to be at home alone as he hated being home without us," Mrs McDonald said.

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"We held each other close, said how much we were going to miss each other for the week and how much we loved each other."

The 34-year-old station manager never made it to Springvale. His helicopter was found crashed and burnt on Tuesday morning.

Though the accident broke her heart, Mrs McDonald said her husband loved flying.

"One of Juddy's idols when he was growing up was a helicopter pilot . . . for him to be a station manager and a pilot was the ultimate - as bad as things are, I would never have taken that away from him," she said.

Mrs McDonald said her husband had experienced some of the dramatic changes in the cattle industry firsthand, from walking cattle everywhere to mustering thousands of them using a helicopter alone.

"He was only 15 when he headed for the stock camp full-time," she said.

"It was an experience that could certainly break a man but it made Juddy the one he became."

Living and working in the State's north was a way of life Mr McDonald cherished and hoped to impart to his son.

Born 15 weeks prematurely in June last year, Trent spent four months in a Darwin hospital before he made it home to Yeeda.

The support the family received during that difficult time from people in the Kimberley left them feeling very privileged to be part of the community.

That same community have again rallied behind the McDonald family.

"Juddy was such a genuine character and he has left us the most amazing support network," Mrs McDonald said. "We have the widest group of friends and I have been inundated with messages - enough to overwhelm me and fill me with gratitude."

After a farewell in Busselton at Mr McDonald's family farm this week, Mrs McDonald intends to take her husband's ashes back to the Kimberley for a celebration of his life before spreading them in the country that he had always held close to his heart.

"I want to spread his ashes at Mt Amhurst, by him being there he can look over that country and Trent will always know where his daddy is," she said.

News break - September 01

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