Bush pilot Dick Lang has been remembered for his sense of adventure, while his youngest son Clayton had a thirst for adrenaline — which the family said was pumping as he tried to flee the Kangaroo Island bushfires.
- The bodies of Dick and Clayton Lang were found on the Playford Highway
- The men had been helping fight the inferno which has blackened almost half of Kangaroo Island
- Friends and family today paid tribute to the pair
Both men have been described at a memorial service in Adelaide on Friday as having “big hearts”.
The bodies of Dick Lang, 78, and his youngest son Clayton, 43, were found on Saturday, January 4 — a day after Kangaroo Island’s fires were described as “virtually unstoppable”.
Dick Lang was an experienced adventurer, tour operator and bush pilot, and his son was one of Adelaide’s most-respected plastic surgeons.
Hundreds of mourners packed the Harrison Rivergum Chapel at Ridgehaven, in Adelaide’s north-east.
In a tribute to Dick Lang’s chosen profession, a flyover by two aircraft preceded the memorial service.
His son Justin Lang described his father as an “inspiration” whose thirst for adventure allowed him and his three brothers to see much of the Australian outback, Africa and Kangaroo Island.
He said he was also an incredibly proud grandfather.
“In ’74 with the whole of Lake Eyre flooded, it was time for Desert Trek to become a full-time venture with a local office set up.
“He dabbled in motorsport, taking part in rallies in the late 60s and early 70s.
“With Lake Eyre flooded in ’74, he held the world record for water skiing and worked for the tourist bureau and local news crews to promote the outback.
“One of my earliest memories … was dad coming home from an outback trek with a full beard.
“Around this time, he saw the opportunity to forge ahead with air safaris, pursing his commercial pilot’s licence — his colour blindness was a challenge, not an obstacle.
“Dad could do just about anything.”
The Lang farm on Kangaroo Island was a ‘sanctuary’
The family bought a property on Kangaroo Island in 2001 and in 2010 built a house which quickly became a “sanctuary” and a “sacred place”.
“The farm was an escape,” Justin Lang said.
The congregation heard “Clarrie” was the most like his father and they shared a “strong sense of right and wrong”.
Lachlan Lang described his young brother Clayton as determined, light-hearted and with a strong work ethic.
“Having a brother only 14 months younger than me was brilliant growing up, we were always playing soldiers together in the vacant block next door, trampolining or slip ‘n’ sliding,” he said.
“We also built a go-kart with dad, and Justin’s help, and used to race it on a downhill track we’d cleared in the reserve behind the house — maybe that’s where Clarrie got his first rush of adrenaline.
“He enjoyed going fast, whether it was horizontally, vertically or diagonally.”
“He really did enjoy taking things to the extreme — you could say he died as he lived, I’m sure that pedal was to the metal in their hasty retreat from the fires and that adrenaline was pumping.
“But it was a race they tragically lost.
“There are so many questions we won’t know the answer to but maybe we can take some small comfort in the knowledge Clarrie certainly lived a full life in his 43 years.
“He not only sucked the marrow out of life, he then gave a dog that bone, then went back for seconds, and maybe some dessert too.”
Earlier this week, relative Kynan Lang explained that his uncle and cousin were helping local families put out fires when they were overcome by the fire.
Lieutenant Lang — who has been part of the Australian Defence Force’s recovery efforts — said the pair loved Kangaroo Island.
The total area destroyed by the Kangaroo Island bushfires now stands at over 200,000 hectares, which is almost half the island.
The fire perimeter reached a distance of more than 600 kilometres.
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