Police and reporters outside the Coolangatta Airport where the helicopter crash occurred.
Police and reporters outside the Coolangatta Airport where the helicopter crash occurred. Photo from the Tweed Daily News/Crystal Spencer

Probe result 'long wait'

IT could be months before authorities know the cause of yesterday's fatal helicopter crash at Gold Coast Airport, in which a 72-year-old pilot died.

The Robinson 22 helicopter, carrying just the pilot, crashed into bushland near a runway and just metres from the Tugun Bypass about 10.25am.

It is understood the pilot, a Sunshine Coast man, was doing solo flight training ahead of getting his pilot's licence.

Police said the helicopter took off from the airport and was in the air for 30 minutes when it crashed on its way back.

The pilot was trapped for about 15 minutes and paramedics said he suffered multiple fractured bones and two collapsed lungs.

He was declared dead at the scene about 10.55am.

The helicopter crashed into bushland near the airport.Investigators from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and the Air Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), along with police forensic experts, yesterday examined the crash site.

Helibiz, who offer flight lessons from their airport base, are believed to be the operators of the helicopter.

The company's chief pilot Dan Egan yesterday said they wouldn't comment on the crash.

“It's a small industry and it wouldn't be fair,” he said.

Four investigators from the ATSB in Brisbane arrived at the scene yesterday afternoon.

Ian Sangston, acting director of aviation safety, said it could take as long as 12 months before a cause was found.

He said the ATSB team included a pilot investigator, two engineering investigators and a human factors investigator.

“They got there this afternoon and could be there for the next three or four days,” Mr Sangston said.

He said the investigators would initially collect perishable evidence.

“That could include things like markings on the ground, anything the rain might wash away,” he said.

“We often recover items from an aircraft, which we take to our laboratories to break down and have a look inside.

The air traffic radio calls, the helicopter's maintenance logs and the pilot's records would also be investigated, he said.

“When you are looking at the engineering, we will be dealing with overseas manufacturers ... so it's not necessarily going to be a quick turnaround.”

The investigators will also interview the helicopter operator and any other pilots in the air at the time of the crash.

“We are (also) interested in contacting witnesses who saw the aircraft,” Mr Sangston said.

He said the Robinson 22 was a fairly “simple” aircraft that was commonly used in pilot training.

The airport closed for a short time in the aftermath of the crash.

CareFlight doctor Renee Beer said firefighters believed the pilot was unconscious when they first arrived but soon succumbed to “catastrophic” injuries.

By the time she arrived on the scene, she said, the man was no longer breathing and had gone into full cardiac arrest.

“We commenced CPR on the patient and then intubated him,” she said. “He had multiple fractured bones and ribs and both lungs were collapsed. We attempted to re-expand his lungs. But he had significant trauma.”

Graeme Capuano, station officer at Bilinga fire station, said his crews arrived at the scene at the same time as paramedics.

The helicopter was badly damaged, he said.

“It was in pieces,” Mr Capuano said. “It had lost parts over about 100 metres.”

Inspector Darren Steel said police were interviewing witnesses yesterday.

A post mortem examination on the pilot is expected to be carried out next week.

Witnesses to the crash should contact Tweed/Byron police on (07) 5536 0999 or the ATSB on 1800 020 616.



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