Trees a cushion for pilot in crash
THE pilot of a helicopter that plunged into a Far North Queensland rainforest and killed the passenger survived because dense trees cushioned the impact and an emergency beacon guided rescuers to the crash site, according to investigators.
An Australian Transport Safety Bureau report into the crash, which killed plumber Mitch Kreutzer, 25, on November 18, 2016, found one of the helicopter's main rotor blades struck the tailcone, ripping it from the airframe.
The helicopter then plunged into a near vertical descent before a fiery crash into the Mount Windsor National Park, about 40km northwest of Mossman.
"The survival of the pilot in this accident was a rare occurrence and was likely due to the reduced rate of descent as the helicopter entered the canopy combined with the orientation of the airframe at impact," the report said.
The crash set off an emergency beacon that alerted authorities who found the smoking wreckage in dense rainforest less than two hours later.
"The activation of the transmitter on impact was the trigger to start the search and rescue operation, and recover the pilot, who may otherwise have not survived," the report says.
The pilot, 43, who had more than 5700 hours flying experience, was conscious when rescuers arrived but was later put in an induced coma for five days and had no recollection of the crash.
The ATSB report found the main rotor stalled after losing speed then likely struck the tailcone.
Investigators found the helicopter was likely buffeted by turbulence that had not been forecast although could not determine if the wind and associated turbulence contributed to the accident.
The wreckage was severely burnt but a detailed inspection did not identify any pre-existing defects that might have contributed to the crash.