Outback Wrangler star Matt Wright has revealed what he believes caused the helicopter crash that killed his friend and co-star Chris Wilson in 2022, accusing police of ignoring crucial evidence.
Mr Wright is facing seven charges related to his conduct after the fatal crash, including attempting to pervert the course of justice, fabrication of evidence and destruction of evidence.
Outback Wrangler Matt Wright has revealed what he believed caused the helicopter crash that killed Chris Wilson. Picture: Liam Mendes/The Australian
Chris “Willow” Wilson was killed on the morning of February 28, 2022 while collecting crocodile eggs in a remote area of West Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory.
The 34-year-old had been suspended in a sling from a helicopter when the aircraft crashed, killing him.
The pilot of the Robinson R44 helicopter, Sebastian Robinson, suffered serious spinal injuries in the crash.
Chris Wilson was killed in the helicopter crash.‘Willow’ was on an egg collecting mission when the helicopter crashed. Picture: Supplied.
Now, in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Telegraph, the reality TV star said the ongoing police investigation is “focusing on picking apart my life and business” rather than the events leading to the fatal crash.
“I do seriously wonder why the NT Police are not focusing on whether the helicopter was refuelled and the fact the toxicology report reveals the detection of cocaine derivatives in the pilot’s blood sample,” Mr Wright said.
No one has been charged in relation to Mr Wilson’s death, and Mr Wright has “strenuously” denied any wrongdoing.
He is facing seven charges arising from alleged conduct that occurred after the crash, including attempting to pervert the course of justice, fabrication of evidence and destruction of evidence.
Mr Wright’s claims about cocaine in Mr Robinson’s blood sample are supported by a letter sent by Mr Wright’s lawyer David Newey to Senior Crown Prosecutor Steven Ledek – which was tendered as evidence during a court hearing in relation to his charges in Darwin last month – that outlined information contained in the prosecution’s brief of evidence.
The Sunday Telegraph reports the letter said the brief includes “a toxicology report of the pilot’s blood sample taken after the crash which records the detection of cocaine derivatives in the pilot’s blood sample”.
Mr Wright told the newspaper he recently learned Mr Robinson, the pilot who was externally contracted for the mission, “was at a party into the early hours of the day before the crash, where people were using cocaine”.
Sebastian Robinson (pictured) was the contracted pilot for the ILL-fated flight. Picture: Supplied.
The Sunday Telegraph also spoke to a man, on the condition of anonymity, who said he was introduced to Mr Robinson at a party in Virginia, 30km south east of Darwin, two nights before the crash.
The newspaper reports he came forward after hearing about the toxicology report being referred to in the court case.
Mr Wright described the new revelations as “extremely concerning”, especially given the references to the toxicology report in court, and said if he knew about what it suggests took place before the flight “it never would have taken off”.
He also said the preliminary Australian Transport Safety Bureau report suggested the helicopter was not refuelled on route to the egg collection. He believes that is the likely cause of the crash.
An investigation was launched into the fatal February chopper crash. Picture: Supplied.
The helicopter was expected to leave Darwin and refuel at Mr Borradaile on the way to a preparation area near King River in Arnhem Land – where they would land, attach the sling and connect a person, and start egg collecting.
Mr Wright told The Sunday Telegraph his Darwin fuel stations use “blue fuel” but the station at Mt Borradaile near the crash site had “green”. The colour relates to lead levels. The fuel at Mr Borradaile was reportedly provided by a third party company involved in egg collections.
The ATSB report said investigators drained “about 250ml of blue fuel from the main tank’s bladder” after the crash. It found the engine components examined after the crash “did not identify defects of the engine likely to result in engine stoppage.”
“This makes me question whether the helicopter was refuelled at Mount Borradaile, and whether it was fuel exhaustion that caused the crash,” Mr Wright told the newspaper.
A map from the ATSB report into the chopper crash.
However, a pilot flying in another helicopter joining the fateful mission told The Australian there was “no possible way” fuel exhaustion caused the crash because he filled the crashed R44’s tank himself at a fuel-drum site near Mt Borradaile shortly before the crash.
Tim Luck said he flew from Noonamah to the drum site with another pilot where he saw Mr Wilson topping up the tank. He said he jumped out and took over pumping.
“I’m 100 per cent sure that machine was filled to the top,” he said.
But Mr Wright said Mr Luck was not “authorised or trained in refuelling helicopters”. That responsibility, he said, fell to the pilot in command.
The Sunday Telegraphalso exclusively obtained a photo which appears to show Mr Wilson sitting in the right-side pilot’s seat with the helicopter’s controls in his hands. Mr Wright said the picture shows Mr Wilson flying the craft in the pilot’s seat and Mr Robinson sitting on the left, with his feet off the pedals – which are on both sides.
“This was a commercial flight, the pilot was not an instructor and Chris Wilson did not have a commercial helicopter licence,” he said.
Chris Wilson. Picture: SuppliedOutback Wrangler Matt Wright. Picture: Glenn Campbell
The photo is time stamped 7.43am, 40 minutes after the flight left Darwin, and appears to show the fuel gauge indicating the tank was about three-quarters full, according to The Sunday Telegraph. It was an estimated 90 minute flight from Darwin to the fuel drums.
He was not blaming Mr Wilson – who he has described as a “true legend” in emotional social media tributes – for being behind the controls, but could not understand why the “pilot went against protocol”.
The newspaper has contacted Mr Robinson for comment.
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NT Police said in a statement they were “continuing to investigate all matters relating to this incident”.
The ATSB’s final report into the cause of the crash is due for release by September.