PLANT­ING CROSSES FOR KI’S HE­ROES

The Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - PAUL ASHENDEN KAN­GA­ROO IS­LAND

RAW PAIN: Army re­servist Lieu­tenant Ky­nan Lang, who is help­ing with the Kan­ga­roo Is­land bush­fire re­cov­ery, kneels and bows his head in re­flec­tion af­ter plant­ing two crosses next to the Play­ford High­way. They are in hon­our of his un­cle Dick Lang and cousin Clay­ton Lang, who were help­ing fight the fires when they died on Jan­uary 3.

LIEU­TENANT Ky­nan Lang bowed in front of the crosses he had just ham­mered into the ground to hon­our the lives of his un­cle and cousin.

His un­cle Dick Lang and cousin Clay­ton Lang lost their lives fight­ing the in­ferno on Kan­ga­roo Is­land. And now an emo­tional Lt Lang is pick­ing up the ba­ton. He is on the is­land in his role as a lo­gis­tics of­fi­cer in the army re­serves’ 9th Com­bat Ser­vice Sup­port Bat­tal­ion. Yes­ter­day he vis­ited the site where they died.

“They were help­ing lo­cal fam­i­lies with their farm ve­hi­cle and trailer and wa­ter tank on the back and they were help­ing put out fires,” Lt Lang said.

“When they were driv­ing to­wards Gosse on the Play­ford High­way it ap­pears they’ve had some trou­ble with their ve­hi­cle, and they’ve been over­come by the fire.”

The 41-year-old fa­ther of three, a Nor­wood po­lice of­fi­cer, was sup­ported by three other re­servists as he sur­veyed the car’s crum­pled wreck on the side of the Play­ford High­way, near Gosse on the is­land’s north­west. He kissed two metal crosses that mem­bers of the Royal Elec­tri­cal and Me­chan­i­cal En­gi­neers had made and ham­mered them into the ground as a last­ing me­mo­rial to his un­cle and cousin.

“Dick Lang was the un­cle that I used to brag about in pri­mary school,” Lt Lang said. “I’d say to all my mates that he was the sa­fari-ing un­cle who went around the world and took peo­ple to do it. There were times that I’d ring him in South Africa and I could ac­tu­ally hear the wildlife and lions roar­ing be­hind him. He was larger than life ”

Lt Lang is two years younger than his cousin Clay­ton, who be­came one of South Aus­tralia’s lead­ing plas­tic sur­geons. They were close grow­ing up – Ky­nan the coun­try boy from Lox­ton and Clay­ton, known as Clar­rie, the city boy. They of­ten ex­changed fash­ion and mu­sic tips.

“Clar­rie was ev­ery­thing GoPro be­fore they in­vented it – he was ex­treme,” Lt Lang said. “He was a sky­diver. He would do any­thing that he could get a thrill out of.” When Clay­ton be­came a plas­tic sur­geon who spe­cialised in hand surgery, his skills were reg­u­larly used by Ky­nan and fam­ily mem­bers to treat foot­ball in­juries.

Lt Lang and his cousins are sixth-gen­er­a­tion South Aus­tralians and the tight-knit fam­ily has ral­lied be­hind Dick’s wife He­len, Clay­ton’s wife Christie and their fam­i­lies. Lt Lang was at an Ade­laide Hills mar­ket on Jan­uary 4 with wife Joanna and chil­dren Cooper, 13, Siena, 10 and Jaxon, 1, when he saw a news alert on his phone that the pre­vi­ous day’s cat­a­strophic Kan­ga­roo Is­land in­ferno had claimed two lives.

A cou­ple of hours later, his fa­ther Dar­ryl, Dick’s youngest brother, called with the hor­ri­ble news that it was their fam­ily mem­bers. Later that day, he got a call from the army, say­ing re­servists were be­ing called up to help lo­cals re­cover from the blaze, which has claimed more than 60 houses and 216,000ha.

“My un­cle and my cousin put the com­mu­nity be­fore them­selves and they gave their lives do­ing it, and I could only do the same,” Lt Lang said.

Lt Lang will re­turn to the main­land to at­tend the funeral of Dick and Clay­ton on Fri­day.

Pic­ture: BRAD FLEET

Main pic­ture: BRAD FLEET

LAST­ING ME­MO­RIAL: Sup­ported by three other army re­servists, Lieu­tenant Ky­nan Lang vis­its the site on Play­ford High­way where his un­cle Dick Lang and cousin Clay­ton Lang, be­low, lost their lives. He also planted crosses in their hon­our, be­low.

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