The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has commenced an investigation after a helicopter crashed near Kiandra in the NSW Snowy Mountains region, killing both people onboard.
The crash site of the privately-owned Bell LongRanger helicopter was located by emergency services just before midnight on Monday, 4 April, about 200 metres east of the Snowy Mountains Highway at Kiandra Flats.
Both occupants onboard – a 64-year-old woman and 75-year-old man from Sydney’s north – were fatally injured in the incident and the aircraft was destroyed. The cause of the crash remains unknown.
It’s the second fatal helicopter crash to occur in Australia within days, after a Microflite charter helicopter crashed near Mount Disappointment with five people onboard late last week, though the two incidents are unrelated.
The ATSB told reporters on Tuesday morning that it was still working to clarify the circumstances around the Snowy Mountains crash, including the movements of the helicopter in the 24 hours prior to the crash.
According to the bureau, the aircraft was last seen travelling with a group of helicopters on Sunday.
“We know it was in the area and it was flying on Sunday,” said ATSB chief commissioner Angus Mitchell.
“[However] exactly where they were leaving from and where they were going, we’re yet to determine.”
Mitchell said that “at some point”, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre was notified, and a search was launched, which resulted in authorities locating the crash site late on Monday.
“We are certainly reaching out to the other parties in the company to try to build a [better] picture,” Mitchell added.
A team of five transport safety investigators from the ATSB’s Canberra and Melbourne offices, with experience in aircraft operations and maintenance, aerospace engineering and human factors, have been deployed to the site on Tuesday.
The ATSB will release a preliminary report into the incident within six to eight weeks, and a final report will be released at the conclusion of its investigation.
“However, should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties, so that appropriate safety action can be taken,” Mitchell said.
Local police are conducting their own, separate investigation, after labelling the incident as “quite horrific”.
“This is a tough job, but we will bind together to find out what actually happened,” said Monaro Police District Commander, Superintendent John Klepczarek.
A report will be prepared for the coroner.