A high-profile businessman and his passenger plunged more than 2,000 meters when their helicopter slammed into a hill in Snowy Mountains, a preliminary report shows.
Barbecues Galore co-founder Peter Woodland, 75, piloted the bright red Bell LongRanger helicopter with his unnamed passenger, 64, who was believed to be his partner.
Investigators found that Mr Woodland had flown through inclement weather before the plane crashed on the afternoon of April 3 in the remote Kiandra Flats area of Kosciuszko National Park in NSW.
The crash investigation revealed that the helicopter made a series of ascents and descents on its final flight before losing control in a sweeping turn.
The helicopter crashed to the ground at a speed of 19 meters per second.
The pair did not survive the impact and would be almost undetectable among the twisted wreckage.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s preliminary report, released Friday, revealed the chilling details of the couple’s final minutes.
Barbeques Galore founder Peter Woodland (above), 74, and his partner, 64, were killed in a helicopter crash in Snowy Mountains in April
A new report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau reveals the latest details as to why this helicopter — a red-and-white Bell 206 Jet Ranger (above) — fell from the sky
The businessman and avid pilot had a helipad and hanger in his Terrey Hills home on Sydney’s northern beaches so he could travel regularly.
Mr Woodland had departed from the Majura suburb of Canberra as part of a seven-helicopter tour of southern Riverina and New South Wales.
The pair fought on despite bad weather, despite six of the other helicopters landing on a site in Wee Jasper in north-east Canberra, while Mr Wooldland moved on and landed further south.
When Mr Woodland’s helicopter failed to arrive in Wee Jasper, the other pilots contacted authorities who began a search but this was called off when the pilot reached mobile reception.
The helicopter was found crashed 200 meters east of the NSW Snowy Mountains at Kiandra Flats in April
Nearly four hours after landing on Long Plain Road, just before 3 p.m., Mr. Woodland’s helicopter took off again, according to recorded flight tracking data.
Police officers searching for the helicopter saw the ruby plane flying low to the south through rainy, cloudy conditions, said Stuart Macleod, the agency’s director of transportation safety.
Tracking data showed that the helicopter tracked geographic features along the lower terrain and flew less than 150 meters above ground level.
Mr Woodland is trained as a geophysicist.
About ten minutes after their second flight, the helicopter turned toward Tumut, their refueling site.
The report shows that the helicopter then started to climb for about six minutes, to about 2134 meters above sea level, before descending to 2073 meters and then climbing again to an altitude of 2255 meters.
‘After the climb to (2255 m) the helicopter started the steep bend,’ said Mr Macleod.
“The forward speed increased to (246 km/h) and the rate of descent was greater than (1,158 m) per minute,” Macleod said.
Emergency services were called to Kiandra Flats in April following a request from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority rescue center
The helicopter hit the ground at 3:36 p.m., in an area covered with grass and bare rocks.
ATSB investigators found evidence that the helicopter’s engine was supplying power to the rotors at the time of the impact.
The next morning, a search began after Mr. Woodland and his partner failed to meet their tour group.
Their helicopter, wrinkled and broken up, was at the accident site that night.
The ATSB said they found no evidence of malfunctions in the helicopter’s powertrain or flight controls, nor any suggestion of an in-flight interruption.
Further investigation will analyze the pilot’s maintenance, information on witnesses and pieces of the helicopter found from the site.
A final report will be published at the end of the investigation.