Search resumes for missing chopper pilot

Robert DoughertyNorth West Telegraph
VideoA helicopter ditched into water on Wednesday night north of Port Hedland, sparking a search and rescue.

The search for a 44-year-old helicopter pilot off the Port Hedland coast has resumed this morning, after the aircraft he was flying plunged into the sea late on Wednesday night.

A 64-year-old male, the passenger in the Aviator Group helicopter, was rescued about an hour after the incident and was helping police last night piece together details of the incident. The man was discharged from hospital yesterday morning.

The incident happened about 35km north-west of Port Hedland about 11.50 Wednesday night while the aircraft was on its way to pick up a marine pilot aboard bulk carrier MV Squireship.

He was taken to Hedland Health Campus with minor injuries after being plucked from a life raft at 1am.

It is understood he was interviewed by WA Police from about 4.30pm to 7.15pm yesterday, before being picked up in a car at South Hedland Police Station.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokesman Craig Condon said he commended the man’s response to the crash after the helicopter became inverted almost instantly.

“Without doubt his training kicked into gear and he has done underwater escape training, he’s managed to free himself and active his beacon,” he said.

“Indications are at this stage that he had not sighted his colleague and did not hear from his colleague as he exited the aircraft.

“It remained on the surface for approximately half an hour before sinking.”

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is leading the search involving helicopters, a search and rescue jet and numerous sea vessels. Helicopter debris, including a rotor blade and cowling, were found in the search area yesterday.

Search crews continued the search operation this morning. Both men are understood to be employees of Mackay Helicopters, a subsidiary of Aviator Group.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will investigate the incident.

A helicopter involved in the search is refuelled at Port Hedland International Airport.
Camera IconA helicopter involved in the search is refuelled at Port Hedland International Airport. Credit: North West Telegraph

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