The dad I never had after the Blackhawk tragedy

HANDS ON DAD: Glen Hagan with his then-infant daughter Laura.
HANDS ON DAD: Glen Hagan with his then-infant daughter Laura.

LAURA Hagan does not know exactly what she has missed by not having a dad for the last 20 years, just that it was a lot.

Laura had just turned three when her father, SAS Trooper Glen Hagan, died in the Blackhawk helicopter crash at Townsville 20 years ago today.

"To be honest, I don't know what it's like to have a dad because I haven't had much to compare it to. It's more that void in my life," she said.

Laura, who was raised on the Sunshine Coast, has travelled to Perth with her mother, Vanessa, this weekend for a ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the crash and the lives lost.


DISASTER FLIGHT: Wreckage of the Blackhawk helicopter crash, June 13, 1996, 70km north of Townsville.
DISASTER FLIGHT: Wreckage of the Blackhawk helicopter crash, June 13, 1996, 70km north of Townsville. AAP/Defence Department

The crash is regarded as the Australian Army's worst peacetime disaster.

Two helicopters which were among a group of six on a live fire counter-terrorism training exercise collided in the dark, leaving 18 men dad.

Laura was the youngest of 11 children left without fathers.

She and her mother had travelled to Townsville a few days before the crash so that Glen could spend some time with her on her third birthday.

They heard a helicopter fly over that night and thought it might have been Daddy. They found out later that it was a helicopter trying to rescue the injured.

Vanessa and Glen, who had married young, had split up by that stage but Vanessa said he was still tried to be as involved in his young daughter's life as he could around work.

Vanessa did remarry but has been a single mother for most of Laura's life and received support from the SAS Resources Fund to help with costs while Laura was a student.


Laura Hagan (right) with her mother, Vanessa (left).
Laura Hagan (right) with her mother, Vanessa (left).

Mother and daughter are a tight unit but special occasions and life milestones are when she Laura feels her father's absence most acutely.

"I'll be talking with friends, and they'll be talking about what they did with their fathers, or Father's Day - thinks like that get difficult because I can't relate to that, I never had that," she said

Laura has two memories of her father.

"We were at the beach building sandcastles. I don't remember his face, I just remember him being there, and I remember going back the next day to see if they were still there and they'd been washed away," she said.

"And I can remember sitting on the kitchen chair, on the phone to him. I was eating an apple, I think, and I passed the phone to mum and I remember saying, 'Good night, Daddy'."


Glen Hagan with his then-infant daughter Laura.
Glen Hagan with his then-infant daughter Laura.

Laura, a bright, outgoing young woman who enjoys talking to people, knows her father through her mother and his family, and the memories they have shared with her.

"I know he was very work-committed, he loved his job, he was a very open, straight, person, a bubbly person, which is where I get that from," she said.

"Mum always says to me that I'm so much like my dad. My laugh is like his, and his smile," she said.

Laura plans to pay her respects to her father and his colleagues at this weekend's ceremony, and perhaps learn more about the man who has been missing from her life.

Topics:  editors picks helicopter helicopter crash

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