Pilot dies after helicopter crashes into paddock while fighting fire in northern Tasmania
A man has died after the helicopter he was piloting crashed into a paddock while fighting the Lebrina bushfire in north-eastern Tasmania. The 41-year-old man was the sole occupant of the aircraft and died at the scene. Tasmania Fire Service Acting Deputy Chief Jeff Harper said the northern Tasmanian man was an experienced pilot who had been assisting water-bombing activities as a subcontractor. Emergency services were called to the crash at Pipers Brook Road on Monday afternoon, 14 February 2022 just after 15h00. The man was the sole occupant of the aircraft. The Fire Service mobilised multiple crews to attend the site.
Tasmania Police said the pilot appeared to have been undertaking bushfire-related work before the crash.
Acting Deputy Chief Harper said it was a tragic incident and that the man had worked on multiple Tasmanian fires in the past. "Our thoughts are also with our people and others who have been working very closely with the man involved to help fight the Lebrina fires," Harper said.
"We will be working with police, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and other authorities so that this incident is fully investigated. It is a very tragic situation, especially because it has involved someone who was working hard to fight the Lebrina fires to keep our community safe. Understandably, this is a very distressing incident for everyone involved and we will be ensuring our people have access to all available support."
Fire fighting aircraft were grounded after the helicopter crash and were assessed overnight before being deployed again. Flight crews and ground crews were debriefed at the Launceston Airport.
The incident will be reported to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau and a report will be prepared for the coroner.
Fire is a registered burn that 'got away'
The Lebrina fire has been burning for days and has destroyed a shed and impacted some plantations, coming close to homes on Saturday night. The fire has already burnt more than 1 600 hectares.
The Fire Service's Gary Johnson said the cause of the bushfire had resulted from a registered burn that got away from the "very remorseful" owner and it had been deemed accidental. Johnson said the immediate threat was over for Lebrina residents.
In January 2020, an air tanker fighting fires in New South Wales crashed, killing three people on board.
Aircraft crashes while undertaking fire fighting duties were also recorded in New South Wales' Bega Valley in 2020 and on Queensland's Darling Downs in late 2019.
Source: ABC News