1997 February: Gawler (Tas) Crop Dusting Accident

Helicopter pilot dies in crash

Jan. 16, 1998, 11:50 p.m The Examiner

A crop duster pilot was killed yesterday when his helicopter crashed into a potato paddock after hitting power lines at Gawler, near Ulverstone.

It was the second crop-duster fatality in just under a year in the Gawler area and the third in Tasmania in the past 10 years.

The pilot, Ian Ashley Highwood, 41, of Western Australia, was contracted to Latrobe aerial spray company P & P Young and had been in Tasmania for only a week.

Insp. Steve Bonde of Ulverstone police said it appeared the pilot had made several passes over the paddock on the property of Alan Anderson on Top Gawler Rd about 9.20am before the helicopter struck 20,000-volt power lines and crashed. One of the three power lines was brought down.

The pilot was killed on impact. The Hughes 300-269 helicopter was totally destroyed, the crumpled debris concentrated in a 4m area with the undercarriage uppermost. Ambulance, the Ulverstone Fire Brigade and policeattended the scene. It is understood Mr Anderson received medical treatment for shock.

Police sealed off the area pending an investigation by the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation. The body was removed late in the afternoon.

Farmer RonMott heard the crash and was first on the scene. “I heard three loud bangs and saw theHydro fuses go,” Mr Mott said. “He had only been here for about five minutes and did about three runs around the house.”

A 43-year-old American crop duster helicopter pilot, Dale Heimer, was killed less than 3km away on February 7 last year.His Bell crop duster hit power lines, crashing into a potato paddock on the property of Aubrey Johnson of Picketts Rd.

The Bureau of Air Safety Investigation is continuing probes into yesterday’s crash following reports that the pilot was operating over the wrong paddock.

An inquest was opened by senior Northern Coroner Peter Wilson and adjourned to Monday January 19 for formal identification.