Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Angus Mitchell speaks to waiting media.

Investigators will remain at the site of a helicopter crash at Mt Disappointment, which killed five people, for at least the next three days to try and determine the cause of the crash.

Four men and a woman died when the helicopter they were travelling in for a business trip from Melbourne crashed yesterday morning while flying over Mt Disappointment.

The five people included a 32-year-old man from Cheltenham, a 50-year-old woman from Inverloch, a 73-year-old man from Albert Park, and two men, aged 59 and 70, from New South Wales.

The Coroner is expected to visit the site this afternoon.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau, ATSB, chief commissioner Angus Mitchell said it was complex operation for police and State Emergency Services volunteers to access the site.

He said emergency services had worked throughout the night to access the heavily-wooded area, using excavators and bulldozers to clear a path.

“Our investigation is very complex. We will look at what we can gather from the site, and as you can imagine that is quite challenging in a situation like this where its had a collision with terrain and potentially a fire,” Mr Mitchell said.

“We will gather anything we can – whether it be recorders, whether it be anything that passengers may have had on them at the time.

“We’ll certainly look at trying reconstruct the site at a three D [dimensional] angle and we’ll quite often use drones and a series of softwares to do that.

“But equally, our investigators have already started that process of building together a picture and we did that within minutes of understanding that the aircraft had gone missing.

“And that’s to go through maintenance records, go through qualifications, to look at things like the weather that was forecast for yesterday, plus what the weather that was experienced on the day.”

Mr Mitchell said the main goal was to look at what occurred and what bought the helicopter down, but also what were some of the lessons to be learnt.

He said ATSB would take over the site later this afternoon for the investigation.

“What we do know is that it was in company with another helicopter from the same operator, and that they lost visual contact with them. We understand at this stage that there wasn’t a distress call,” he said.

Mr Mitchell said yesterday’s accident was one of five aviation crashes now being investigated by the ATSB, with nine people having died in aviation crashes in Australia in the past three months.

He said the ATSB would release a preliminary report into the crash in six to eight weeks.

“We’ll take off site what we need for investigations and then we’ll hand the site to either the insurers or the owner,” he said.

Mr Mitchell said there had been significant damage to the helicopter, which would make the investigation more difficult.

Emergency services set up a staging area along Main Mountain Road yesterday. Photo: Tricia Mifsud

The chartered helicopter had taken off from Moorabbin Airport before picking up passengers in Batman Park, Melbourne about 7am.

The flight was destined for Ulupna, along the Murray River in northern Victoria.

The Victoria Police air wing located the aircraft wreckage eight kilometres from Blair’s Hut in the Mt Disappointment State Forest, north of Whittlesea, at 11.45am yesterday.

Specialist search and rescue police officers accessed the site via a police helicopter at about 3pm in an attempt to search for survivors.

The other helicopter landed at Mangalore airport this morning to refuel before returning to Moorabbin Airport this afternoon.

The ATSB has deployed a team of transport safety investigators from its Canberra and Melbourne offices with expertise in helicopter operations and maintenance, and aerospace engineering, to the crash site.

The helicopter crash site is eight kilometres from Blair’s Hut in the Mt Disappointment State Forest.

1 COMMENT

  1. Many thanks NCR for keeping us up to date. What a very sad time for all the families, my heart goes out to them all.

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