Search resumes for missing pilot after helicopter crashes off WA’s north-west coast

Headshot of Rourke Walsh
Rourke WalshThe West Australian
VideoA marine search will resume on Friday for the missing 44-year-old when his helicopter crashed into the ocean off WA's north-west

A marine search will resume today for the missing pilot of a helicopter that plunged into the ocean off WA’s north-west coast on Thursday.

A marine pilot waiting for the Eurocopter EC135 to pick him up from an iron ore ship anchored off Port Hedland watched as the aircraft ditched into the water at about 11.50pm.

It is understood the twin-engine helicopter, operated by Aviator Group, was on a training flight.

A second pilot was rescued from a life raft about 1am.

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He was taken to Hedland Health Campus in a stable condition and later released. The other pilot’s family have been told he is missing.

Aviator Group chief executive Ian Vanderbeek said the company was working with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Pilbara Ports Authority and other vessels to find him.

“Our immediate focus is on assisting with the ongoing search effort and supporting our staff and their families affected by this accident,” he said.

The cause of the crash, which happened as the helicopter approached the bulk carrier MV Squireship about 35km offshore, is yet to be determined.

The marine pilot was waiting to be picked up after guiding the carrier through the shipping channel into deep water.

He notified harbour control, which advised AMSA. It said it detected a distress beacon from one of the helicopter’s crew about midnight.

Four flares were seen in the search area shortly after.

Seven aircraft and seven boats, including four tugs, are involved in the search. Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigators travelled to Port Hedland yesterday.

Pilbara Ports Authority said the helicopter was believed to have crashed near the end of the Port Hedland shipping channel.

The carrier had left a Fortescue Metals Group berth at Port Hedland port about 9pm.

FMG chief executive Elizabeth Gaines said the company was “deeply concerned” one pilot was still missing after the crash. “We have offered our full assistance to all relevant authorities,” she said.

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