Helicopter faced heavy cloud cover before crash that killed five people, report reveals

A Victorian helicopter crashed, killing five people after hitting a large tree trunk while traveling through heavy clouds, a preliminary report on the tragedy has revealed.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has just released the first findings of a ongoing investigation in the fatal helicopter crash at Mt Disappointment, Victoria on the morning of March 31.

The helicopter hit the ground about 250 meters south of the last point it was recorded before being overcome by fire, the report describes.

Pilot Dean Neal was one of five people killed when a helicopter allegedly hit a tree on Mt Disappointment. (delivered)
Paul Troja has been confirmed as a victim of the Mt Disappointment helicopter crash. (9News)

“However, researchers have found no evidence of pre-existing defects that would have affected the helicopter’s operation,” the report said.

Instead, it indicates that flying conditions may have led to the crash.

The crashed Microflite helicopter was flying along with a second helicopter from Melbourne to Ulupna when it crashed while flying over Mt Disappointment.

The helicopters flew between a later “scattered” cloud – meaning a cloud covers between a quarter and half of the sky – and a layer of “broken” cloud – meaning the cloud covers more than half of the entire sky – before the incident took place.

AXIchain's Ian Perry (left) and Linda Woodford (right) were both killed in the Victoria helicopter crash.
AXIchain’s Ian Perry (left) and Linda Woodford (right) were both killed in the Victoria helicopter crash. (delivered)

“As they approached Mt Disappointment, the pilot of the first helicopter noticed that the cloud layer below was rising and beginning to break, while the base of the cloud above appeared to be descending, making the clouds appear to converge in front of them,” ATSB said. Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell.

Nick Vasudeva was also aboard the ill-fated flight. (delivered)

“The pilot reported that they were then confronted by a wall of cloud in front, and to the left and right of their runway, and signaled to the other pilot that they intended to turn around.”

The pilot of the first helicopter told investigators that the pilot of the second helicopter, who was about two miles behind, may have been confused by this transmission.

The pilot of the first helicopter then sent out “U-turn, U-turn, U-turn” to the second pilot and turned sharp left into a southbound orbit.

About 30 seconds later, while traveling south at 1112 meters altitude, the pilot and passengers aboard the first helicopter saw the second helicopter pass below and to their left at about 1066 meters altitude, continuing north.

This was the last visual contact they had with the second helicopter.

A damaged tree has been seen near the crash site. (Nine)

“A short time later, before the collision with the terrain, flight data showed that the second helicopter was descending on a left turn,” said Mr Mitchell.

The ATSB is still analyzing data collected from the helicopter that crashed and will provide analysis and findings about the crash in a final report.

Since the ATSB released the report this morning, the helicopter company Microflite has issued a statement saying it is committed to assisting with the investigation.

A police helicopter involved in the operation after a helicopter crash in Victoria. (Nine)

“Our thoughts remain with the families and loved ones of those affected by this terrible tragedy,” the statement said.

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