Australian Police

Australian Police

The Thin Blue Line – Australian Police

2005AircraftArticlesCauseCurrently ServingDeceased PoliceFacialFemaleFuneralGenderIncompleteLocationOf eventOn DutyPassenger ( Rear )PhotosQLDRemembranceStateUnknownVehicle accidentWall of RemembranceYearYes

Sally Elizabeth URQUHART


Sally Elizabeth URQUHART

AKA  ?

Late of  ?

Partner ( fiancée ) of Senior Constable Trad THORNTON ( Bamaga Police Stn )

Queensland Police Academy Squad #  ? ? ?

Queensland Police Force

Regd. #  4014432

Rank:  Commenced Training on 19 February 2001

Probationary Constable- appointed 4 September 2001

Constable – appointed ? ? ? 


Final RankConstable

StationsMetropolitan North Region – Hendra Police Stn ( 19 Feb 2001 – 13 Oct 2002 ), Cairns Police Stn ( 14 Oct 2002 – 10 March 2003 ), Aurukun Police Station ( 11 March 2003 – 21 August 2003 ),   Bamaga Police Stn ( 18 months ) – Death

Service:  From 19 February 2001   to   7 May 2005 4 years Service

Awards:  No Find on Australian Honours


Born? ? ?

Died on7 May 2005


Cause:  Passenger – Downed Aerotropics flight from Bamaga to Cairns, Qld

Event location:   rugged mountain terrain 11kms northwest of Lockhart River Aboriginal Commission, Qld

Event date7 May 2005


Funeral date? ? ?

Funeral location? 


Funeral Parlour: ?

Buried at: ?


Memorial / Plaque / Monument located at: ?

Dedication date of Memorial / Plaque / Monument: ?


SALLY IS mentioned on the Police Wall of Remembrance



May they forever Rest In Peace



In Memory of Constable Sally Urquhart



Location:  Column 3 - Left leg, Rear portion, Row 4  Sally Urquhart
Location: Column 3 – Left leg, Rear portion, Row 4


Constable Constable Sally Urquhart and Senior Constable Trad Thornton on the northernmost point of the Australian Mainland.
Constable Sally Urquhart and Senior Constable Trad Thornton on the northernmost point of the Australian Mainland.



Constable Sally Urquhart registered number 4014432 was a Queensland Police Officer from the 19thFebruary 2001 until the 7th May 2005.

Constable Sally Urquhart was on-board an Aerotropics flight from Bamaga bound for Cairns when it crashed into dense rainforest and rugged mountain terrain 11kms northwest of Lockhart River Aboriginal Commission, killing all fifteen occupants on the 7thMay 2005. This tragic loss has affected the whole community in the Far North, in particular the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community of Bamaga and Injinoo.

Constable Sally Urquhart had been stationed at Bamaga Police station, with her fiancé Senior Constable Trad Thornton for the past 18months.

Sally was the eldest of three children born to Shane and Elizabeth Urquhart. She grew up as the daughter of School teachers and subsequently lived throughout Queensland.  Sally was a young lady born for success, she was school captain at both primary and high school; a model student.

In the words of her father,“ She touched the hearts of everyone she met from childhood to present, in the many parts of Queensland where we have lived ”.

After finishing school she went on to complete a double degree at the University of Queensland in Law and Science, winning the University prize for Family Law.

Whilst at uni, Sally shared accommodation with a police officer, Plain Clothes Detective Peta Ross and it was during this time that Sally set her sights on joining the Queensland Police.

Sally and her dog ' Prince '
Sally and her dog ‘ Prince ‘

After graduating from university, Sally commenced recruit training at the Queensland Police Academy at Oxley on the 19thFebruary 2001 and graduated on the 4th September2001.

Her first posting was to the Metropolitan North Region where she was stationed at Hendra. Even at this early stage in her Career Sally was showing signs of great potential. Her service history indicates that she excelled in all aspects of general duties and worked well in a team environment.

It was here that she met her finance, Senior Constable Trad Thornton. Trad was working in the Public Safety Response Team, (PSRT), at the time.

Sally was posted to Cairns Station on the 14th October2002, where she performed general duties in Team 4.  Her Supervisor / Team Leader identified early that Sally was an officer who was prepared to accept any responsibility or task and displayed a high work ethic.  She was well suited to general duties policing and excelled at all aspects of her work.

Sally’s professionalism and understanding towards all members of the public went beyond that of her duty as a Police Officer. She was always willing to assist members of the community and was commended by the then Assistant Commissioner Allan Roberts for her efforts.

Trad was transferred to Cairns a short time later and after 4 months, the pair were identified as suitable officers to work in the Aboriginal community in the Cape York Peninsular and were transferred to Aurukun Station where they policed from the 11th March until the 21st August 2003.

Aurukun is a station that has recently increased from 4 to 7 staff, with a population of approximately 1200. Most of the work involves policing aboriginal community which in itself is a huge task, the sacrifices that officers make to go there are enormous, however the life experiences are priceless.

Sally excelled in her work and she was involved with all levels of the community. Sally’s personality and demeanour ensured that she was readily accepted by the community. Sally had a presence about her that brought calm to situations that verged on mayhem and conflict. Whilst stationed at Aurukun her rapport with the community members was one of respect, trust and honesty.

These qualities and her dedication to duty ensured that The Queensland Police were respected, in a sometimes difficult environment. Sally’s attitude to work and her diligent and tenacious nature ensured that she was going to achieve whatever she desired.

Sergeant Andrew Clarkson ( current Officer in charge of Aurukun ) remembers Sally dealing with confronting and daunting situations that required great courage and composure. He remarks that Sally excelled in these situations, and it was reassuring to know that she was with you.

Sgt CLARKSON remembers her personality, her smile and her innate ability to say the right words at any given time making the rigors of policing Aurukun enjoyable. “ I will always remember the day that I was promoted to Officer in Charge, Aurukun not for the promotion, but for the way that Sally rushed over to me when she heard the news, gave me a hug and a kiss and then made a fuss over it all ”.

Sally was a selfless person who ensured that others would always come first. She was a dedicated police officer who values ensured that justice was served. When I heard of the tragedy, I pondered as to why could one who’s light shines so strong and bright be taken from us.

Local kids at Aurukun swimming pool
Local kids at Aurukun swimming pool

Policing within any Cape Community within the Far Northern Region is a daunting experience for police officers to say the least. Officers within these communities develop the ability to foresee behavioural changes within the community. Officers are exposed to a myriad of situations and events that test their abilities. To be tenacious, resourceful and professional at all times is sometimes a feat within itself.

Since the implementation of Alcohol Management Plans (AMP’s) communities have undergone a dramatic metamorphosis. With the lifting of the ‘veil’ of alcohol, policing within the communities has changed tact from the much talked about reactive policing style to a more proactive community based approach. This change has been embraced by the community and supported by both elders and councils.

Policing for female officers is compounded further by local culture and tradition. Male’s in these communities are reluctant to deal with female officers.  From my observations all the females that I have worked with at Aurukun have been able to establish a rapport and gain respect within the communities, that some male officers have failed to achieve. These officers have utilised their various skills and instincts to finesse and diffuse potentially volatile situations.

The ability to arbitrate, negotiate and resolve situations are attributes that police utilise everyday. Working within remote and isolate communities ensures that these skills are honed and developed to there absolute potential. The ability to endear oneself to a community and make a difference was never more evident, with the tragic loss of Sally. Elders and councillors from the community stopped me to talk to me about Sally and how ‘ good a person she was ’. Silas Wolmby an elder and traditional landholder of Aurukun stated to me that “ she made him smile, and he knew that she would always do the right thing. ”

From Aurukun she was transferred to Bamaga Police station. This area consists of 5 police. Sally was one of two female officers in Bamaga. The second being Senior Constable Joanne Bailey, the following comments are from Jo.

Sally was nothing more than a champion. She would undertake any task with such enthusiasm, whether it be major criminal investigations such as rape and indecent dealings to minor jobs that are required to efficiently run a small station. Sally was instrumental in organising court days and her organisational and leadership skills were way above her policing years.

Besides her policing skills, Sally had an amazing quality of ‘ brightening up the room ’. She was always genuinely happy to see you at any time and nothing was a bother. Her laughter could be heard across the houses, which would straight away make you smile.

Trad and Sally made many friends in Bamaga. Since they were engaged in June 2004, she shared her excitement with her closest friends. Her wedding plans were all sorted out, again she was organised down to the jelly beans on the table!

But it was not to be, and like many people from the Far North the 7th May 2005 will remain as the worst day they have ever experienced. But things are getting easier, and as a good friend of ours said recently, we are truly more blessed to have known Sally, even if it was only for a short time. She is sadly missed.

Sally's graduation day - pictured with squad mates Constable Krissie Warriner and Constable Mardi Watts
Sally’s graduation day – pictured with squad mates Constable Krissie Warriner and Constable Mardi Watts
Sally on Patrol in Bamaga
Sally on Patrol in Bamaga

















The Journal for Women and Policing

Pages 12 – 14





Fresh blow to air crash victims’ families

THE owners and operators of a commercial plane involved in one of Australia’s worst air disasters have launched legal action that could stop the victims’ families ever getting answers.

Two pilots and 13 passengers were killed in the May 2005 Lockhart River tragedy when an Aerotropics commercial flight crashed into a ridge line and exploded in flames, killing all on board during a flight from Bamaga.

In the latest roadblock for victims’ families, owners of the doomed aircraft have launched an appeal in a bid to block a wrongful-death lawsuit in the US state of Missouri, just weeks after the victims’ families won a legal battle to allow the case to go to trial in July next year.

Brisbane man Shane Urquhart lost his policewoman daughter Sally in the crash and said the long-running legal hurdles were “frustrating” and “ludicrous”.

“We’re talking about human lives here, ordinary people and they were all good people going about their daily business,” he said.

“There’s no such thing as closure, there’s no closure when you lose someone but there may be justice but that certainly hasn’t happened here.”

The horror crash was the worst air disasters in Queensland in more than four decades and claimed the lives of a leading scientist, a popular policewoman, three key members of a football team, and a 25-year-old mother of six.

The families allege in the Missouri court action that the aircraft had several defects and that the crash was “the direct and proximate result” of one of more of those defects.

The alleged defects include claims the plane did not contain an effective ground proximity warning system, it was not equipped with autopilot and flight instruments were either hard to read, confusing, or not in proper view.

Lawyers for the plane’s owners and operators who are being sued by 61 family members of the crash victims, the majority of whom live in Queensland, launched an appeal on September 6 against last months’ Brisbane Supreme Court ruling allowing the Missouri case to go ahead.

The appeal argues the Supreme Court ought to rule that the Missouri action is “vexatious and oppressive” and that “nothing relevant” could be gained in the overseas action over and above what could be gained in Australia.

The families are pursuing legal action in Missouri where they claim the aircraft was delivered, inspected and placed into operation.

The 61 family members are expected to fly to Missouri to give evidence or testify via video link.

In Missouri, a jury will determine the amount of damages awarded instead of a judge and there are no orders for costs as there are in Australia.

However it’s not yet clear whether the US case will run according to Queensland or Missouri law.

Toowoomba lawyer Pat Nunan has been representing the victims’ families for more than a decade and said the delays were difficult.

“It’s terrible and it’s had a great impact on the families of the victims,” he said.

“Litigation is one of the great stressors of all time and it has been horrendous for them.”

He said the families were desperate for answers.

“We’re trying to get their day in court to determine what actually did go wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

“It’s like a hot dagger into a wound every time something comes up in these cases.”

Brisbane man Shane Urquhart lost his policewoman daughter Sally in the crash and said the long-running legal hurdles were “frustrating” and “ludicrous”.

“We’re talking about human lives here, ordinary people and they were all good people going about their daily business,” he said.

“There’s no such thing as closure, there’s no closure when you lose someone but there may be justice but that certainly hasn’t happened here.”

The appeal returns to the Court of Appeal tomorrow.


Fresh blow to air crash victims’ families | Morning Bulletin



Sahar Mourad

A father has revealed the chilling phone call he received moments after the horror plane crash which killed his daughter and 14 others on board.

The crash, considered one of Australia’s worst aviation disasters, led to the deaths of 15 people in 2005 after a plane struck a ridge in the Lockhart River, Queensland.

Grieving families of the passengers are still asking for answers after a Coroner’s Inquest and Senate inquiry failed to conclusively reveal what caused the crash.

Constable Shane Urquhart, whose daughter Sally was one of the passengers on the plane, has revealed the haunting words he heard immediately after the crash.

‘The phone rang and when I answered, it was Sally’s fiance Trad and I’ll never forget the words…He just very, very quietly said ”Shane, Sally’s plane is missing”,’ he told A Current Affair.

Since the devastating incident, loved ones have been looking for answers to what happened on the plane which caused it to crash.

Mr Urquhart said there’s ‘no such thing as closure’ and all the families’ victims deserve answers.

‘They don’t deserve or didn’t deserve what happened to them.’

The policewoman was due to marry Trad four months after the incident, but instead her fiancée and family were left with the heartbreaking task of burying her.

An inquiry into the crash found 19 different factors led to the fatal collision, with the main one being pilot error.

But Mr Urquhart does not accept this, saying the inquest took the easy decision to blame someone who is not around to defend themselves.

‘In aviation accidents where everybody has not survived, who are they going to blame? The pilots, because no-one is available to tell the story and it’s very, very easy to do that,’ he told the network.

The victims’ families lawyer Patrick Noona alleged there was something already wrong with the aircraft, revealing they would be taking legal action against the plane’s owners in the United States.

The insurers are fighting to stop the legal proceedings but nothing will occur until the case appears in the Brisbane Supreme Court next month.

If the families win then a wrongful death lawsuit will be heard in Missouri next year.

Mr Urquhart said his daughter would be cheering on the families saying, ‘don’t let the bastards win’.




Lockhart River air disaster

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Lockhart River air disaster occurred on 7 May 2005, when Aero-Tropics Air Services Flight 675 crashed while on approach to land at Lockhart River Airport in Queensland, Australia, on a ridge known as South Pap 6 nautical miles (11 km) north-west of the airport.[2] All fifteen on board died as the aircraft was completely destroyed by impact forces and subsequent fire. The Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner commuter aircraft, registered VH-TFU,[3] was owned by Transair Ltd and operated by Aero-Tropics. The flight was scheduled from Bamaga on Cape York to the regional centre of Cairns, with a stopover in Lockhart River. It was the worst air crash in Australia in 36 years since MacRobertson Miller Airlines Flight 1750 on 31 December 1968.[4]



The Queensland Coroner’s Inquest in 2007, found that, despite evidence that there were a number of issues leading up to the crash, pilot error was the prime cause. Families of those who lost their lives in the disaster have been highly critical of the Coroner’s findings and the deficiencies in the operations of the regulator, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), and the poor company structure and practices of Transair Ltd.

The investigation was aided by flight information from the aircraft’s flight data recorder. As the cockpit voice recorder was unserviceable, and had been for some time, the conversations occurring between the flight crew will never be known.

Senate inquiry

As a result of intense lobbying by the father of one of the victims, Constable Sally Urquhart, and others, the Australian Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee resolved to conduct an inquiry into the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, its operations and other matters. The Inquiry was convened on 2–3 July 2008 at Parliament House, Canberra. As well as Mr Shane Urquhart’s submission, there were sixty others which were considered by the Inquiry. The vast majority of the submissions were highly critical of most aspects of CASA’s operations.[who?] Several people and organisations, including Mr Urquhart, supported their submissions in person at the Inquiry. In September 2008, the Committee Chair, Senator Glenn Sterle, released the report of the inquiry to the Transport Minister Mr Anthony Albanese and the public.

The recommendations from the report are:

1. That the Australian Government strengthens CASA’s governance framework and administrative capability by:

a. introducing a small board of up to five members to provide enhanced oversight and strategic direction for CASA; and
b. undertaking a review of CASA’s funding arrangements to ensure CASA is equipped to deal with new regulatory challenges.
2. In accordance with the findings of the Hawke Taskforce, that CASA’s Regulatory Reform Program be brought to a conclusion as quickly as possible to provide certainty to industry and to ensure CASA and industry are ready to address future safety challenges.
3. That the Australian National Audit Office audit CASA’s implementation and administration of its Safety Management Systems approach.

Further incidents

Following the Lockhart River crash, Transair in Australia went into liquidation in late 2006.[5] Aerotropics also no longer operates because the Civil Aviation Safety Authority cancelled its Air Operator Certificate due to ongoing safety breaches. Transair continued to operate its PNG business until 31 August 2010 when the company’s Cessna Citation ran off the runway on landing at Misima Island near Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. The previous owner of Transair in Australia, Les Wright, died along with three others in the ensuing inferno. There was one survivor.




  1. Hans Mick (17 August 2007). “Lockhart River plane crash findings handed down”. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 14 January 2014.




Lockhart River air disaster – Wikipedia


Remembrance post Constable Sally Urquhart

10 years on we remember those lost in the Lockhart River Plane Crash

May 7, 2005, saw 13 passengers and 2 crew board an Aerotropics flight in Bamaga bound for Cairns.

Constable Sally Urquhart was one of those passengers heading to Townsville Police Academy for work and farewelled her fiancé at the Bamaga Airport.

Whilst enroute, their Metroliner crashed on ‘South Pap’ on the Iron Range about 11km from Lockhart River airstrip at about 11.44am.

Police commenced Operation Delta Devlin with Inspector Russell Rhodes as the Forward Commander for the Crash Investigation and recovery.
nspector Rhodes is now in his 4th decade of policing and he cited this job as his most demanding job as a Forward Commander as it was an extremely demanding search and recovery effort over a seven day period.

Whilst he had a very good team working with him, they were challenged by the tough terrain and weather conditions.

He said, “I do stress that it was never about us and no matter how hard it was going to be we were always going to do whatever it took to help those families.”

No one can prepare you for a sudden loss of a loved one. When it comes in tragic circumstances, it’s like a bolt from the blue that makes no sense at all.

Many of us in the QPS had the pleasure of working with Constable Sally Urquhart and treasure the time we had with her. She was an absolutely delightful young woman.

Beautiful inside and out, charismatic in nature, she was a little pocket rocket, smart as a whip, a dedicated police officer with so much potential to succeed. She was your typical girl next door and engaged to be married to a fellow officer later in 2005. Both were so excited to spend their lives together.

Constable Sally Urquhart was a much loved friend and colleague to many of us in the Queensland Police Service. Sal made our lives that much richer for just knowing her and she will always be remembered as a beautiful young woman, full of life and forever young.

Today ceremonies were held in Bamaga at the Airport and the Oxley Police Academy to mark the 10th anniversary of the plane crash.

Constable Sally Urquhart’s family were present at the Police Academy to hear the Commissioner of Police Ian Stewart and Mr John O’Gorman (Retired Police Inspector) pay tribute to Sally, honouring her service, at the 10th anniversary of her death.
In recognition of the shared tragedy of the plane crash, Sally’s nieces and nephews released 15 balloons for each of those who lost their lives 10 years ago at the Oxley Academy ceremony.

Our deepest sympathies go out to all the families and friends of those lost in the Lockhart River Plane crash 10 years ago.

They remain alive in our hearts and treasured memories will not be forgotten.
RIP Sally



Honouring victims of shocking fatal flight

A DECADE ago today, two pilots and 13 passengers boarded an aeroplane in Bamaga bound for Cairns – but they would never complete the fateful journey.

Memorial services will be held around the state today to remember the 15 people killed in the Lockhart River air disaster 10 years ago.

On May 7, 2005, an Aerotropics flight with 15 people on board from Bamaga to Cairns crashed into South Pap Ridge, 11km northwest of the Lockhart River Aboriginal commission.

Trad Thornton will be one of dozens of family members remembering a loved one taken too soon.

Mr Thornton, now a police sergeant based in Brisbane, was a senior constable in 2005 when his fiancée Sally Urquhart was killed in one of the worst aeroplane crashes in Australia’s history.

Constable Urquhart, a 28-year-old police officer, based in Bamaga and celebrated for her strong sense of social justice, was on her way to Townsville for a constable development course when she died.

Sgt Thornton will attend a memorial service at Oxley Police Academy for Constable Urquhart, who was killed only weeks before she was due to marry the fellow officer.

“She was an absolutely amazing person and an exceptional police officer,” he said.

“It’s just one of those days that I suppose is going to be etched in my mind for the rest of my life like the day we were going to get married and the day we got engaged.

Sally Urquhart and fiance Trad Thornton. Sally Urquhart died when the TransAir passenger plane smashed into a hill in May 2005 on approach to the Far Northern community of Lockhart River, killing all 15 people aboard.
Sally Urquhart and fiancée Trad Thornton. Sally Urquhart died when the TransAir passenger plane smashed into a hill in May 2005 on approach to the Far Northern community of Lockhart River, killing all 15 people aboard.

“I’m very happy that she will be remembered but it is my opinion you don’t ever get over something like this but you learn to live with it.”

He said Constable Urquhart was such an exceptional police officer that after only three years in the service she had the Chief Superintendent and Assistant Commissioner travel more than 1000km to talk to her about her career progression.

“It was very impressive to see two high-ranking police fly 1000km to talk to someone about their police career,” he said. “She was very well educated with law and science degrees and she was very capable.

“She had the perfect personality to be a police officer.” Sgt Thornton now has a family and two young boys but he said he would never fully recover from losing his fiancée.

“In my mind I am able to separate the emotion from the plane crash and talk about the investigation but when it comes to Sally it’s a closed book,” he said.

“I see things and try and do things I think Sally would want me to do.

“Instead of wasting a day grieving and dwelling on the past I’m going to try and think about the good times.”

Father, Shane Urquhart said he would never fully recover from the tragedy.

“We live with it every day still, 10 years on – it’s always there,” he said. “There’s no such thing as closure.

“The memorial is about remembering Sally and thinking of the 14 other innocent people who were just going about their lives.”




A Call From Lockhart River


This program tells the poignant story of a popular young police officer widely described as one of the ‘best and brightest’ in the Queensland Force.

Sally Urquhart was one of 15 people killed four years ago when a plane crashed at Lockhart River in a remote region of Far North Queensland.

It was categorised as the worst airline disaster in Australia for nearly forty years.

At the time of her death Sally Urquhart was engaged to a police colleague also serving in the Far North. In a call to her mother just before the flight, Sally talked about the upcoming wedding and described her fear of getting on the plane. “I just hate it… it rattles” she said.

Sally’s father Shane is a primary school principal, with no expertise of any kind in aviation.

But when official investigations into the crash left questions unanswered, he set out on a single minded mission that took him to the most powerful forums in the land – with consequences for everyone in regional Australia and beyond.


A Call From Lockhart River – Australian Story



Plane crash families fight for justice


FAMILIES of the victims of one of Australia’s worst ­aviation disasters have been blocked by insurance giant QBE from long-running legal action in the United States.

Fifteen people died in the 2005 Lockhart River crash on Cape York, but relatives yesterday told The Courier-Mail how they were “shocked and appalled” by a court order to end a nine-year lawsuit in the US against part-owners of the ill-fated Cairns-based Aero Tropics airline.

Lawyers for QBE obtained an order from the Supreme Court in Queensland restraining the Lockhart River families from taking any action other than to dismiss the damages claim before the US courts.

Twelve years on from the tragedy, the father of police ­officer Sally Urquhart, who died in the May 6, 2005 crash, said families had been victims of “bully boy tactics” and “intimidation” by Australia’s biggest insurance company.

Brisbane schoolteacher Shane Urquhart, who lived in Caboolture at the time of the accident, said none of the families or their lawyers had been notified of the latest legal action before the court order.

“We’ve been fighting for justice for our lost loved ones for so long, and now we feel the judge and the legal system has been duped,” he said.

“It’s not just us, but anyone who gets on a plane in Australia needs to know the sort of bastardry one of the biggest aviation insurers in the country will use against victims of air disasters and their families,” he said. “None of the plaintiffs were informed. None of our lawyers contacted.”

QBE, according to its website, provides insurance to airlines, aircraft, airports, pilots, refuellers, baggage handlers and maintenance operators.

Reverend Mary Eseli’s son, Fred Bowie, and sister-in-law, Mardie Bowie, were among six victims of the air crash from the tiny indigenous communities of Injinoo and Bamaga, at the tip of Cape York.


“It has been an open wound in our hearts that has never healed,” she said.

“QBE has paid compensation and costs, where appropriate, in respect of the claims by relatives of the deceased passengers against the operator of the aircraft.”

Plane crash families fight for justice | Queensland Times




Sally URQUHART & her father


Father of Sally Urquhart








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