Inspector Darren Williams, of Grafton police.
Inspector Darren Williams, of Grafton police.

Firefighter dies in chopper crash

A HELICOPTER working on firefighting duties in poor visibility crashed on Dorrigo Mountain yesterday, leaving one man dead and another fighting for his life.

A 41-year-old Dorrigo man, who was the passenger in the helicopter and a serving member of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, died at the scene.

He was reported as a father of two and a ‘highly experienced’ ranger and firefighter.

The crash happened around 11.40am with no witnesses.

“People have heard the crash. Then they’ve gone to investigate and found the helicopter,” said Inspector Darren Williams from Grafton police.

The pilot of the aircraft, a 29-year-old man, is believed to be in a stable condition with serious head, chest and back injuries.

The Westpac Lifesaver Rescue chopper from Tamworth was sent to the scene but heavy fog grounded the crew at the site.

The injured man was taken by ambulance to Coffs Harbour Base Hospital.

Dome Road, near the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, was closed by a Bellingen Shire Council worker from 12.30pm, with only local residents allowed to pass.

“Their operation was to do a survey south-west of Dorrigo. There’s a fire burning out there and they were actually doing a survey to see if they could get fire services in there,” said Insp Williams.

The fog, which rolled in thicker after the crash, didn’t hamper rescue efforts but media at a conference only 300 metres away could not see the crash site.

Fire crews from Coffs Harbour and Dorrigo attended the scene to provide fire protection.

The State Emergency Service was also called in.

A 24-hour protection order has been placed on the private property by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

The ATSB has taken control of the inquiry and investigators were on their way to the scene late yesterday.

A report will be prepared for the coroner who also visited the crash site.




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