The ATSB’s chief commissioner has called Thursday’s Eurocopter EC130 crash in north Melbourne one of the worst in the state’s history.
Angus Mitchell added his team would use software and drones to build up a 3D picture of the crash site but warned the full investigation would take “many months” to complete.
The incident, involving a Microflite charter helicopter, took place near Mount Disappointment and killed the pilot and all four passengers on board.
“We will look at what we can gather from the site, and as you can imagine, that is very challenging in a situation like this where we’ve had a collision with terrain and potentially a fire,” Mitchell said.
He told reporters his team would also go through maintenance records, investigate qualifications and examine the weather forecast for the day, which was thought to include low-lying clouds and nearby bushfire smoke.
“Our main goal here is not only to work out what occurred and what brought the helicopter down, but equally, what are some of the lessons that may be learnt so we can prevent instances like this occurring into the future.”
The ATSB’s comments come after more details of those on board were revealed.
The pilot has now been identified as 32-year-old Dean Neal, who Microflite hailed as always putting “the safety and wellbeing of his passengers in the highest of his priorities”.
“Our broken hearts go to the families and friends of those who were flying with him. Your unspeakable loss is understood by us all,” the business said.
“We know Dean would have done anything in his power to deliver his passengers safely to their destination.”
It’s also transpired one of the passengers was 73-year-old Paul Troja, the chairman of Warragul-based livestock firm, R Radford & Son.
“Paul was a very passionate individual, and as chairman, he was actively involved in the operation of our business,” Radford’s CEO, Paul Scanlon, told The Australian.
“He was a great mentor to many of us at Radford’s and in the industry, always willing to offer advice and an opinion.
“Paul was a very strong and accomplished leader. He wasn’t just active on the board, he would come down to the site, walk around and talk to the staff, he wasn’t a hands-off board member.”
The helicopter is believed to have taken off from Moorabbin Airport before picking up passengers in Batman Park, Melbourne at 7am on 31 March. It was headed to Ulupna, in northern Victoria.
The single-engine light helicopter crashed in thick bushland, making rescue efforts increasingly difficult. It took until shortly after midday for the EC130 to be located.