Thursday, March 21, 2013

Robinson R44, Bankstown Helicopters, VH-HWQ: Accident occurred March 21, 2013 in Bulli Tops NSW - Australia

Helicopter crash at Bulli Tops at the Panorama House function center. 
Photo Credit: Gregg Porteous.

Helicopter crash at Bulli Tops at the Panorama House function center.
 Photo Credit: Gregg Porteous. 

An aerial view of the fatal helicopter crash south of Sydney. 
Photo Credit: Stephen Cooper.

Helicopter crash at Bulli Tops at the Panorama House function center.
 Photo Credit: Gregg Porteous .

A young couple on route to inspect their wedding venue were among four people killed in a horrific helicopter crash at Bulli Tops yesterday.  

 The four had flown from Bankstown Airport to enjoy lunch and to view the facilities at Panorama House restaurant when the Robinson R44 clipped trees as it tried to land on a cliff-top clearing and exploded.

Distressed restaurant staff rushed to the fiery scene but there was little they could do.

A witness said: "They grabbed every fire extinguisher in the building, but there were too many flames and too much oil. The poor pilot stumbled out, took his helmet off - and then just collapsed to the ground. There was nothing anyone could do. It was just horrific."

The man, who did not wish to be identified, said a number of young men working to set up a marquee on the grounds of the venue also jumped in to try and save the occupants.

"My heart goes out to those guys. They were heroes because they jumped across and were only four to five metres away from the aircraft which was engulfed in flames," he said. "The couple were planning to get married there."

Wollongong Acting Superintendent Tim Beattie described it as a "horrific scene" and that the impact to the ground was "massive".

No names have been released.

Bankstown Helicopters, the registered operator of the Robinson R44, said the chopper was hired to a pilot conducting "private operations".

It is the second fatal crash involving Bankstown Helicopters, after the company-operated helicopter VH-COK crashed on February 4 last year, killing film producer Andrew Wight - a close friend of Titanic director James Cameron - and fellow filmmaker Mike DeGruy.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau confirmed at the time that it was investigating whether the helicopter had been retrofitted to reduce the risk of fire.

As aviation experts began sifting through the debris, a tarpaulin covered the chopper's charred cabin. The severed tail rotor and stabiliser lay metres away.

Witness Norm Upton said it was about 12.15pm when he noticed a plume of smoke as he approached Bulli Tops.

"I looked over and saw a helicopter on its side. Its fuselage was still intact but it was smouldering," Mr Upton said. "Then I saw two men running towards it, and I knew straight away it must have been bad."

The manager of Go Hire, an events company, said four of his workers were at Panorama House setting up a marquee ahead of a wedding open day planned for today when they witnessed the chopper crash.

"It was pretty horrible for them and they're all in deep shock," the manager said.

"You get up in the morning to go to work never expecting you'd end up seeing something like this. It's just awful."

Witnesses were comforted by a team of Salvation Army counsellors.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has launched an inquiry into the incident and late yesterday deployed a team of four investigators to the crash scene.

On February 4, 2011, a flight instructor and passenger were killed when a Robinson R44 crashed while conducting circuit operations at Cessnock Aerodrome.

Last year the Bureau issued a Safety Advisory Notice recommending Robinson R44 with all-aluminium fuel tanks be retrofitted with the safer bladder-type tanks. 


Story and Photo:

Story and Photos: