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Minister defends CASA over handling of Broome chopper crash

written by Jake Nelson | November 9, 2023

Transport Minister Catherine King has defended CASA’s handling of the company responsible for 2020’s fatal crash of a Robinson R44 helicopter which killed a young girl.

The minister told ABC Radio in Perth this week that CASA “can’t be everywhere” in response to questions from host Nadia Mitsopoulos over whether the crash, which took the life of 12-year-old Amber Jess Millar (pictured), could have been prevented had CASA been more proactive.

“We can’t have investigators everywhere, but what we can have is eyes on the industry everywhere, and that is incumbent on all of us, if we see something, report it, if we see that there’s unsafe action, or you think there is unsafe action in the industry,” she said.

“General aviation is a big sector, it is everywhere, in small airports, small properties, all the way across the country, it is really important that people report incidents if they think something is happening and report that to CASA so they can investigate, cause they just can’t be everywhere.”


The Australian in August obtained documents under FOI suggesting CASA had known of previous reckless conduct by pilot Troy Thomas’s company, Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures, in 2018.

Amber’s mother and stepfather, Fiona and Clint Benbow, have previously said CASA has “blood on its hands” over the incident, an accusation the agency refutes.

“It is soul destroying to know that CASA did nothing with the evidence it had received about Troy Thomas and others except to turn a blind eye,” said Mrs Benbow.

“We aren’t talking about ignoring hearsay or gossip. They had hard photographic and videographic evidence.

“If CASA is not going to act on information it receives about ­pilots and companies, why bother to have a regulator?”

Minister King said she has asked CASA to look at the incident and determine if there is anything further the authority needs to do.

“CASA has said publicly, obviously had the pilot survived the accident, they would have taken action against the pilot, but that unfortunately they’re not able to do, he lost his life in that incident as well. They’ve said that really clearly that’s what would have happened,” she said.

“ATSB have finished its investigation and didn’t find any direct findings against CASA, and really what ATSB will do, and they’re the investigators, will look at whether there’s any systemic failures that need further work.”

According to the ATSB’s report, the crash was caused by an overstress fracture in the tail rotor gearbox’s input cartridge that may have been picked up had more been done about reports of unusual vibrations in the rotor pedals.

The crash investigator also noted Thomas’ “high-risk appetite” and lack of a current aviation medical certificate or R44 helicopter flight review at the time of the accident.

“Additionally, during a review of the past usage of VH-NBY to identify any previous events that may have damaged the tail rotor, numerous instances of high risk operation by the accident pilot were identified (together with several reportable matters that had not been conveyed to the ATSB),” the ATSB wrote.

“These included the conduct of low flying and external load operations without the required training or qualifications and, more significantly, the carriage of passengers in an unsafe manner on multiple occasions.”

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