THE Glen Innes community is mourning the loss of a much-loved teacher and rugby league-enthusiast after he and his son were killed in a foreign plane crash. Gordon Creighton, 71, was visiting his son 41-year-old, Michael Creighton, an armaments technician with a Norwegian aid agency, when tragedy struck.
The pair were two of six Australians killed when Lao Airlines flight QV301 went down during a violent storm, crashing into the Mekong River in Southern Laos on Wednesday.
Mr Creighton and Michael were on board the flight from Michael’s home of Vientiane, to Pakse, but it’s believed none of the 49 nine passengers and crew survived the crash.
As news of the tragedy trickled through, the Glen Innes community was lost for words on the loss of the much-loved locals.
Family and friends began gathering in the town to support Mr Creighton’s wife and two children while Michael’s fiancee, Melanie, was left grieving in Vientiane.
Best friends for decades, John Hamilton was lost for words.
“The community of Glen Innes, especially the rugby league community, will be much poorer for Gordon’s loss,” he said.
“He was an absolutely fantastic bloke.”
Locals said Mr Creighton only left for the trip this week to see his eldest son, who had spent two decades working on aid projects around the world.
He was based in Vientiane, Laos and worked for Norwegian People’s Aid, de-mining old battlegrounds.
Locals who knew him said he had lived with danger, and worked in dangerous situations, but his passing was tragic. Mr Creighton was well-known in the tiny town of 5000 after teaching at the local primary school for about 30 years.
After retiring from teaching, Gordon took on a casual role at the high school, but it was his love of rugby league that everyone remembers.
He was an intense rugby league watcher who always analysed tactics, living and breathing the game.
Friends say he had “a great rugby league mind.”
Gordon coached junior league teams and was a long-serving club president of the Glen Innes Magpies, before being inducted as a life member.
Close friend Paul McRae said “Gordo” took him under his wing when they first began teaching together in the early 1980s.
“There was nothing in the rugby league world that he wasn’t involved in,” he said.
“He was a great contributor and put his hand to pretty much anything at all. He was a great disciplinarian and commanded a fair bit of respect.”
Mr McRae said when the 71-year-old gave up primary school teaching, he also taught at the local Glen Innes prison farm.
“He helped quite a few of the ones who wanted to better their lives,” Mr McRae said.
“He had some stories come back from there.
“A family like this are a treasure, they are irreplaceable in the community and they will long be remembered.
“It’s something you don’t expect and, when it hits, it’s just like a ton of bricks.”
The community was left reeling yesterday as Glen Innes locals began to comprehend the loss.
Deputy mayor Graeme Price said the grief would spread far and wide through all the children Gordon taught at school.
“Being a small community where people know everyone else, it’s just an awful tragedy that is going to be felt by many,” he said.
“It’s just tragic that [Michael] was doing such good work for the community and had his life tragically cut short.”
Crash investigators are still trying to piece together what went wrong on the fatal flight.