The ATSB has released a preliminary report detailing evidence gathered to date in its investigation of a fatal mustering accident, which occurred approximately 550 km south of Darwin in June.

The preliminary report, which contains no analysis or findings, notes two pilots were taking part in mustering operations at Limbunya Station, in the Northern Territory’s Victoria River region, on the morning of 27 June 2023.

Both pilots were using Robinson R22 helicopters to conduct the aerial work, which started that day at around 0700 local time.

At about 0930, one pilot set down at a collection of fuel drums to refuel, then departed.

The second pilot advised via radio that they had done the same at about 0945.

Approximately 15 minutes after that, the first pilot contacted the head musterer to ask whether they had heard from the second pilot. The head musterer advised they had not.

After a short aerial search, the first pilot located the wreckage of the second helicopter at about 1015.

The helicopter was destroyed, and the pilot had sustained fatal injuries.

The ATSB deployed investigators to examine the accident site and wreckage.

“As well as on-site work, the investigation has so far included the collection of meteorological data, and pilot and aircraft records,” ATSB Director Transport Safety Kerri Hughes said.

“Investigators have also conducted interviews and liaised with the Northern Territory Police Force.”

As it progresses, the ATSB’s investigation will include further review and analysis of the meteorological data, wreckage information, and instruments and components gathered from the accident site.

“Electronic data from the accident pilot’s mobile phone, the aircraft’s maintenance history, and any similar occurrences will also be reviewed,” Ms Hughes added.

A final report will be released at the conclusion of the investigation.

“Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties, so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken,” Ms Hughes concluded.

Read the report: Collision with terrain involving Robinson Helicopter R22 Beta, VH-PSC, 29 km south-east of Limbunya Station, Northern Territory, on 27 June 2023

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