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June 21, 2010 6:39 PM

Australian Lawyer-Mining Exec Among 11 Dead in Congo Plane Crash

Posted by Brian Baxter

CarrGreggUPDATE : June 22, 7:30 a.m. The fifth and sixth paragraphs of this story have been updated with a statement from AAR chairman Ewen Crouch.

The body of one of Australia's richest men, mining magnate Ken Talbot, was among the 11 passengers and crew that died in a plane crash over the weekend. Rescuers reached the crash site in a dense jungle on Monday, two days after the charter flight went missing en route from the capital of Cameroon, Yaounde, to a rural mining site near the neighboring Republic of Congo.

Among the dead was John Carr-Gregg (photo at right), a mining executive at Talbot's company, Sundance Resources, and a former senior associate at Australian firm Allens Arthur Robinson (AAR). Carr-Gregg and six other Australian executives on the flight represented the entire board of Sundance, according to media reports. Rescue efforts over the weekend had been hampered by thick fog.

AAR spokesman Chris Fogarty told The Am Law Daily in an e-mail that Carr-Gregg joined the firm in 1994 as a senior associate before going on to serve in a variety of senior in-house counsel roles with firm clients, most of them mining concerns.

"[John] was a popular and extremely well-liked colleague, and those who worked with him are deeply saddened and their thoughts go out to his family," Fogarty wrote.

AAR chairman Ewen Crouch echoed those sentiments in a statement about Carr-Gregg's death.

"[John] was in our Perth office only last week and those who worked with him as a colleague and a client will miss him," Crouch said. "He had a genuine interest in the law and a deep personal integrity. As a client, he was very supportive of younger lawyers, and he always went out of his way to recognize a job well done."

Carr-Gregg, admitted to the bar in New South Wales and New York, served as company secretary and general manager of corporate services for Sundance. Prior to joining the iron ore miner, he worked at several other energy resources companies in various roles. He was in Africa with Talbot and the other Sundance executives to visit the company's Mbalam iron ore project.

According to various media reports, the group was forced to take a charter flight because Talbot's private jet couldn't land at the tiny airstrip at Yangadou, a remote mining town on the Cameroon-Congo border where only small planes can land. The London Times reports that the flight path was over treacherous, mountainous terrain.

With its top executives feared dead, Sundance requested that shares of its stock be suspended from trading on the Australian Stock Exchange. Talbot, a nonexecutive director at Sundance, was the company's largest shareholder.

Sundance said in a statement that it had appointed several strategic advisers to assist interim operational directors named to replace those killed in the crash. Among them is Michael Blakiston, a name partner at Perth firm Blakiston & Crabb, who advised on the agreements relating to the Mbalam project and will continue to provide legal counsel to the company. (Blakiston & Crabb recently struck an alliance with one of Australia's largest firms, Sydney-based Gilbert + Tobin.)

In an interview with The Herald Sun of Australia on Monday, family members of Carr-Gregg called him a "tough bugger" who would be strong enough to survive a plane crash and get help. After learning of his death early Tuesday, those close to Carr-Gregg recalled his love of mining law and Africa.

Carr-Gregg was 58.

Photo: Sundance Resources

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