On 2 April 2011, a Robinson Helicopter Company R44 Raven 1, registered VH-HUL, was conducting charter operations from a helicopter landing site at the Lorn Reserve on the east bank of the Hunter River, near Maitland, New South Wales. The helicopter had been positioned on flat ground, facing NE, 23 m south of three overhead 11kv power conductors that spanned the River next to the Belmore Bridge.
On the second flight of the day, the pilot commenced hover checks at the landing site having observed a gradual wind change from the SE to the SW before the flight. The pilot had used the trees on the eastern bank of the Hunter River as a visual cue and saw the wind gusting straight across the river from a SW direction.
After completion of the hover checks, the pilot flew the helicopter forward and commenced a left U turn to face the river. At about 50 ft above ground level, the helicopter was caught in a southerly wind gust and drifted towards the 11kv conductors. As the pilot turned the helicopter south, one of the main rotor blades severed a power conductor. After hearing a loud noise and feeling a slight shudder, the pilot landed back at the Reserve.
One of the severed conductor fell onto a safety railing on the Western side of the Hunter River. The ensuing electrical discharge resulted in a full thickness burn to the leg of a three year old child in contact with the railing, about 156 m south of the bridge.
As a result of this occurrence, the aircraft operator has introduced and documented new processes and completed a number of amendments, to their operations manual and safety manual relating to HLS/ALA procedures, pilot qualifications and HLS Records.