Outback Wrangler Matt Wright speaks on helicopter crash as he vows to fight charges

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

7:03 am Pilot Seb Robinson and egg collector Chris ‘Willow’ Wilson are in one of three Robinson R44 helicopters that took off from Noonamah for a crocodile egg collection operation on West Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, about 500km from Darwin. Each helicopter has a pilot and an egg collector. They fly 90 minutes to a barrel filling station in the bush near Mount Borradaile.

8:30 am Choppers fly from the barrel filling station to the King River staging area 20 minutes away. Mr Wilson reportedly shares a photo of the fuel gauge showing it was almost full to their shared WhatsApp group.

Around 9 o’clock Choppers split up to go to their different egg collection areas. Two went 12 km northeast and collected eggs from nine nests between 0911 and 1014.

10:14 am The other two crews realize they have not heard from Robinson and Wilson and Chief Helicopter Pilot – and Director of Remote Helicopters Australia – Michael Burbridge, 44, goes to look for them.

10:36 am It finds the wreckage of their helicopter 30 km south of South Goulburn Island. Mr. Wilson, 34, is dead 40 meters from the wreckage and Mr. Robinson, 28, is seriously injured with spinal injuries on the ground next to the aircraft. Their helicopter collided with trees and terrain. The second helicopter briefly takes off again to make radio contact and raise the alarm.

Outback Wrangler Matt Wright reportedly flies to the scene of the accident involving off-duty Police Sergeant Neil Mellon and Darwin publican and crocodile farmer Mick Burns. Mr Burns has not been charged with any criminal offence.

12:30 p.m A CareFlight helicopter arrives on scene and airlifts the pilot to Maningrida, where he was airlifted to Darwin.

19 APRIL 2022: The Air Transport Safety Bureau is releasing their initial findings on the crash and the full report is expected in the first quarter of 2023. It determines that the helicopter’s engine stopped before hitting the ground. There was only 250 ml of fuel in the fuel bladders which were both intact, but the report states that fuel may have flowed into a nearby creek because the fuel system was damaged in the crash. There were no other obvious signs of mechanical failure and there was no fire at the scene.

25 AUGUST 2022: Neil Mellon, 47, a father of three, is arrested shortly after arriving at Darwin police station for work. Police raid his house and reportedly find illegal wildlife, fireworks and firearms.

26 AUGUST 2022: Mellon is charged with 31 felonies, including attempted perverting the course of justice and stealing and unlawfully accessing data. His charges also include weapons, firearms and wildlife crimes, as well as alleged destruction of evidence in connection with a major accident investigation.

Later the same day, his wife Sandi, also a serving NT police officer, posted allegations on Facebook, unrelated to the crash, about a former close friend, which were later deleted.

Mellon is said to have since resigned from the police force after 27 years of service.

SEPTEMBER 2022: Outback Wrangler and father of four Matt Wright, 43, moves from Darwin to Queensland’s Gold Coast with his pregnant wife Kaia.

SEPTEMBER 20, 2022: Helicopter pilot Michael Burbridge – who was first on the scene – is being charged in connection with the crash. He is charged with destroying evidence, conspiracy and attempting to pervert the course of justice, and making a false statement.

NOVEMBER 28, 2022: NT police are issuing an arrest warrant for Wright and he must report to Darwin police station within 48 hours to face at least six serious charges related to the crash. They relate to his actions before and after the crash, claiming that he tampered with evidence.

NOVEMBER 29, 2022: Wright checks in for an 8:15 am flight from Sydney to Darwin with his wife and their newborn daughter, Dusty. He is charged with a series of offenses in connection with the helicopter crash in the afternoon.

NOVEMBER 30, 2022: Wright will appear in Darwin Court on seven charges related to the crash which he strongly denies and is granted bail until the next court hearing on January 25, 2023.

Wright is charged with perverting the course of justice, destroying evidence, fabricating evidence, unlawfully entering a building, unlawfully entering a residence, making a false statement and obstructing witnesses in a criminal investigation or legal action through threats/retaliation.

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