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Australian pilot Gary Clark dies crossing American highway

Written by on May 10, 2024

An Australian pilot and father-of-two has died after being hit by a car while crossing a freeway in the early hours of the morning.

In a tragic twist, his wife only learned of her husband’s death during a Google search.

Gary Clark, 56, was crossing Interstate 5 in Sacramento, in the US state of California, when he was struck by a by Hyundai driven by a 30-year-old motorist around 3.30am on Saturday (local time).

Mr Clark, from Adelaide, had been working in California as a Black Hawk helicopter pilot helping to put our fires for months at a time since 2020.

The 56-year-old, who shares a son and daughter, both in their twenties, with his wife Karen, was due to return home on Saturday, May 18.

Family friend Kylie Payne told Mr Clark had been playing AFL with a local club in Sacramento on Friday night before he died.

“We think he stayed back after footy and they’ve had a few drinks. And then he was walking home to his apartment because that’s what he’d done plenty of times before,” she said.

“He walked across the road… and it was sort of on a bend. We think he’s looked the wrong way when he’s gone to cross the road.

“He’s crossed that road other times before and obviously never had any problems, but just on this particular instance….”

The family didn’t learn of his death until Tuesday morning Australian time, after Karen tried calling her husband, as she did every day, and got no response.

“Normally Gary rings twice a day, every day,” Ms Payne said.

“Karen had spoken to him Saturday morning our time, Friday night his time, and was due to speak to him again Saturday night but she couldn’t get hold of him.”

When she tried again the next day, he still didn’t answer.

Eventually, Ms Clark contacted her husband’s work colleagues who told her he had not turned up for work on Monday and later checked his apartment.

“They were able to ascertain that he hadn’t actually been at his apartment since Friday night.”

“Then Karen was Googling to see if there’d been any accidents or anything reported in that local area in Sacramento.”

Ms Clark found an article about a 56-year-old pedestrian hit and killed the early hours of Saturday morning.

“She thought, ‘I think that might be Gary’. So then she got onto his colleagues in America to try and find out if it was Gary. And then obviously it turned out that it was Gary.”

Ms Payne said the family had been holding up as well as expected following the tragedy.

“They sort of have their ups and downs.”

She said his daughter moved to London just two weeks ago but returned to Australia last night so she could be with her family.

“That was pretty tragic for her just about to start a new life in London and this happens.”

The married couple had just “invested all their money into their dream apartment” in Adelaide.

“They were just about to start building, which would be ready in a couple of years, because their children are older and about to move out. So they were going to be downsizing into this beautiful apartment.”

Ms Payne remembered Mr Clark as someone who got along “really well with everyone”.

“Everybody loves Gary. He’s really the sort of guy that is everybody’s friend.”

“He likes to ride his motorbike and he’s a helicopter pilot, so he’s definitely a bit of a thrill seeker.”

The California Highway Patrol said Mr Clark tried to walk from the northbound shoulder of the freeway to the other side.

Emergency services were called to the scene at 3.39am but Mr Clark was pronounced dead, Officer Justin Fetterly, a spokesman for the CHP North Sacramento’s office, told the Sacramento Bee.

The Hyundai driver was treated at hospital for minor injuries.

Ms Payne has set up a GoFundMe to support the family and cover the costs of bringing Mr Clark back home to Adelaide.

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“It is a difficult and expensive process to bring Gary home,” she wrote in the GoFundMe.

“I am hoping we can raise some money to support the family during this time.”

Over $11,000 had been raised at the time of publication.