2006 December: Ringarooma (Tas) Crop Dusting Accident

Man survives fiery chopper crash in Tas

December 27, 2006 – Sydney Morning Herald

A cropduster pilot has survived a fiery helicopter crash in north-east Tasmania.

The Bell helicopter plunged to the ground and burst into flames after clipping powerlines at Trenah, south-west of Ringarooma, about 7.30pm (AEDT) on Wednesday.

The 45-year-old local pilot freed himself from the burning wreckage, despite serious burns to his upper body.

Sergeant Tony Grincais said witnesses saw the helicopter hit powerlines off Maurice Road before it crashed into a potato paddock.

The aircraft was destroyed.

“The pilot managed to get himself out of the aircraft, he suffered burns to the arms, hands, face and neck, he was taken to the Scottsdale Hospital and is now enroute to Launceston General,” Sgt Grincais said.

“He’s in a serious but stable condition, his injuries aren’t life threatening.”

Sgt Grincais said the pilot was in shock and had yet to be questioned by police.

He said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) had been notified but a non-fatal crash of this kind was unlikely to be further investigated.

“At this stage, it’s not going to be investigated any further by the bureau of air safety,” Sgt Grincais said.

“Their words are that cropdusters hitting power lines are a dime a dozen, they happen all the time.

“There’s no safety issues arising from that that would affect the general travelling public.”

Sgt Grincais said the low altitude manoeuvres of cropdusters made them vulnerable to crashes.

“They fly very low so that the chemicals that they’re spraying are dispersed evenly over the crop and aren’t blown away by the wind.

“How they don’t do it (crash) more (often) is probably the applicable question.”

ATSB spokesman Ian Sangston confirmed the accident will not be investigated.

He said flying at low altitude is hazardous and aircraft, including crop-dusting helicopters, weed sprayers and private light planes, have been known to hit power lines and crash.

“In this instance, the aircraft was crop dusting and was confirmed to have hit a power line,” he said.

“In terms of investigating or not, there’s a value judgment made … what’s the return of investigating given it’s (crop dusting) a known hazard.”

An ATSB report, released in June, found there were 119 wire-strike accidents reported between 1994 and 2004.