PLANTING CROSSES FOR KI’S HEROES
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.
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.