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ATSB in final stages of Eurocopter EC120B investigation

written by Adam Thorn | April 2, 2020

The families of passengers killed and injured when a Eurocopter EC120B crashed into the ocean near Hardy Reef, Whitsunday in 2018 are set to find out the results of an ATSB investigation soon.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has announced its investigation team has reached a consensus and are now drafting the final report, which will soon be distributed to those directly affected for feedback.

Two Hawaiian tourists were killed in the incident when the helicopter crashed into the sea near a remote Barrier Reef pontoon in north Queensland, 65 kilometres north-east of the Whitsunday islands.

The 35-year-old pilot and two other passengers, a 33-year-old man and 34-year-old Colorado woman escaped with non-life threatening injuries.

An earlier interim investigation revealed basic details of what happened on 21 March 2018.


The pilot and four passengers departed Hamilton Island Airport, Queensland, on a charter service, flying over coral reefs and beaches before intending to land on the Hardy Reef floating helicopter landing site.

The proximity of Hamilton Island Airport to the Hardy Reef HLS (ATSB)

However, while approaching the pontoon, the pilot noticed a warning message, and conducted a go-around. When the helicopter was at 40 feet above the pontoon, the pilot recalled feeling a ‘thud’ and the nose of the helicopter yawed sharply left.

The report then reveals, “In an attempt to arrest the yaw, the pilot reported that he made a number of control inputs, which included lowering the collective and pushing the cyclic forward and to the left. The pilot was unable to regain control of the helicopter and it collided with the water.

“A passenger reported that soon after impact with the water, the helicopter rolled onto its right side in a mostly inverted orientation.

“The pilot and two of the rear passengers exited the helicopter soon after the collision. After swimming free from the upturned helicopter, the two passengers reported donning their life jackets from a waist belt mounted pouch.

A Eurocopter EC120B, VH-WII, similar to the model that crashed in 2018. (CQ Plane Spotting)

“The remaining rear passenger was evacuated by one of the surviving passengers and the front passenger (in the copilot seat) was evacuated from the helicopter by the pilot.

“At about that time, personnel from Reefworld arrived and assisted with first aid and resuscitation until emergency services arrived. The two passengers that were unable to exit the helicopter unassisted were fatally injured. The two other passengers sustained minor injuries, and the pilot was uninjured.”

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