Thursday, October 04, 2012

Reality TV star's chopper pilot dies in crash

POLICE divers will today try to retrieve the body of a pilot who worked for Northern Territory charter flight company owner and reality TV star Milton Jones after a helicopter crashed into a remote Kimberley gorge yesterday.

The 40-year-old pilot and another pilot had been mustering on Louisa Downs station, 140km west of Halls Creek, in two separate Robinson 22 helicopters.

At the end of the day, as they flew back to their accommodation at nearby Larrawa station, they landed to go for a swim in the gorge. But when the 40-year-old later took off, he clipped the side of the ravine and crashed to the bottom and into 2m of water.

The cook at Larrawa station, Wendy Brockhurst, said yesterday the pilots had been there for two weeks and the dead man was "lovely, you couldn't get a nicer person".

"He didn't come across as a foolhardy person," she said.

Staff at Mr Jones's Darwin-based Northern Australian Helicopters would not comment, except to say a statement would be released in coming days.

Mr Jones is the owner of NAH, which has been operating across northern Australia since 1993 and serves mining companies, government departments, tourism and mustering.

He appeared in last year's hit Ten Network reality series Keeping Up With the Joneses, about life on his 400,000ha cattle station.

He has been fighting efforts by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to examine uncut footage from the program allegedly showing him piloting a helicopter after drinking alcohol, leaving children unattended in a running helicopter and using a helicopter to tow his son on water skis.

A CASA spokesman said yesterday the footage was still being examined. No charges have been laid. Mr Jones has described that investigation as a "witch-hunt".

There are no roads to the remote gorge on Louisa Downs Station and police divers and two Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigators sent from Perth were not expected to reach the site until midday today.

A police spokesman said officers would not release the pilot's name until they reached the site and could confirm the person's identity and inform his family.

ATSB general manager of aviation safety investigations Ian Sangston said an operations investigator, who was a licensed helicopter and plane pilot, and an aircraft mechanical engineer had been sent to the scene.

In July last year, Jillian Jenys, 48, was killed in an R22 helicopter as she was returning from mustering northeast of Fitzroy Crossing, in the Kimberley.

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