One of Australia’s most respected television journalists died yesterday following a heart attack while covering the Mine Rescue Mission in Tasmania.
The 62 year old, 60 Minutes reporter had only moments before asked a tough, critical question to the miners.
His Nine Network colleagues were in tears as they and paramedics tried desperately to revive him. He was taken to Launceston Hospital, and was pronounced dead on arrival.
Full report from the Herald Sun.
News doyen’s one last stand
“On the 26th of October last year, not 10m from where these men are now entombed, you had a 400-tonne rock fall. Why is it ? is it the strength of the seam or the wealth of the seam ? that you continue to send men in to work in such a dangerous environment?”
? RICHARD CARLETON’s last question.
DEVASTATED Channel 9 colleagues watched helplessly yesterday as the distinguished journalist Richard Carleton lay dying in a park opposite the Beaconsfield Gold Mine.
A Current Affair anchor Tracy Grimshaw was among about 20 people who held up a screen of blankets to shield Carleton from dozens of shocked locals.
Tasmanian policeman Sen-Constable Phil Pyke yelled, “C’mon Richard, C’mon Richard”, as he and ambulance crews worked on the reporter for more than 20 minutes.
But Carleton was pronounced dead on arrival at Launceston General Hospital at 2.12pm.
Nine last night devoted its news bulletins and a special early edition of 60 Minutes to their veteran reporter, who had been with the flagship current affairs program since 1987.
Carleton, a father of three, died on the front foot.
Fifteen seconds before collapsing, he confronted gold mine manager Matthew Gill over safety at the mine, where two men last night remained trapped after an Anzac Day earthquake.
Carleton questioned whether Mr Gill had sent men to a dangerous area of the mine — an area, Carleton said, where there had been a huge collapse last October.
“Why is it — is it the strength of the seam or the wealth of the seam — that you continue to send men in to work in such a dangerous environment?” he asked.
Mr Gill refused to answer Carleton’s final question.
Carleton then walked about 15m and collapsed as some of dozens of Channel 9 staff gathered in shock.
Sen-Constable Pyke and a radio journalist performed CPR on Carleton as they waited several minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
After about 20 minutes, paramedics cut open Carleton’s shirt before trying to revive him with a defibrillator.
He was then transferred by ambulance to Launceston, but was declared dead on arrival.
It is suspected he died of a heart attack.
Grimshaw refused to leave the scene as paramedics fought to save Carleton, 62. She stood by Carleton’s long-time producer, Howard Sacre.
Appearing shocked and distressed, she helped hold up the screen.
Grimshaw was later comforted by Nine news executive David Hurley, before a group of emotional Nine staff left the area.
Nine’s field producer for the mine disaster, Neil Miller, was also at the scene. He was one of the last people to speak to Carleton, who had suffered poor health since his first open-heart surgery nearly 20 years ago.
But Mr Miller said Carleton had appeared normal shortly before the press conference. “He seemed fine,” he said. ‘He seemed perfectly fit. The next time I looked around he was on the ground, and I thought, ‘Oh my God’.
“He represents many of the good things in my business.”
Melbourne’s Nine news presenter Peter Hitchener, clearly affected, watched as paramedics fought to save Carleton just 15m away.
“It’s shocking, given that we’ve been all talking to him the last day or so,” Hitchener said.
“I just can’t believe that he’s been struck down in this way. It’s a terrible, terrible story.”
Nine’s Sydney newsreader, Mark Ferguson, said: “We’ve lost a wonderful reporter and a wonderful man.
“He never dodged the tough questions.”
Shortly before dying, Carleton, who had smoked to the end, was signing autographs for children in a park opposite the mine.
He wrote to 10-year-old Launceston girl Aleana Elkin: “Have a healthy life. Richard Carleton, 60 Minutes.”
Carleton will be remembered as one of the nation’s toughest, most experienced journalists.
He is famous for having asked former prime minister Bob Hawke how it felt to have “blood on your hands” after the Labor leader deposed predecessor Bill Hayden.
Carleton, married with three children from two marriages, reported from every corner of the globe.
His assignments ranged from Iraq to East Timor and throughout the Middle-East, Europe, Asia and the Pacific.
Carleton was courageous in his pursuit, and often controversial.
In 2003 he allowed television cameras to film his second open-heart surgery operation.
Only last year, Carleton was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Born in Bowral, NSW, Carleton began his career as political correspondent for ABC’s This Day Tonight in 1967. He fronted the Carleton/Walsh Report in 1985, and joined 60 Minutes in 1987.