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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald

Port Stephens helicopter crash: no sign of missing pilot or his dog

EMERGENCY services are continuing the desperate search for a helicopter pilot who crashed in waters off Hawks Nest on Thursday as investigators recovered a cockpit camera that may hold the key to understanding what went wrong.

Police confirmed on Sunday there were still no signs of 54-year-old Jindabyne pilot Ed Kraft or his dog after the wreckage of the Robinson R66 single-engine turbine helicopter was found in waters off Yacaaba Headland at Hawks Nest on Saturday.

NSW Police Force Marine Area Command and NSW Police divers made the grim discovery just after 12pm after debris, believed to be from the helicopter, was found on Bennetts Beach on Friday.

The helicopter's cockpit video camera has been recovered from the crash, which the country's national transport safety investigator, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) will attempt to download and analyse at its technical facilities in Canberra.

A team of four transport safety officers with expertise in aircraft operations and maintenance have been deployed to the area to investigate.

Police say Mr Kraft departed Cessnock about 8.50am on Thursday and was bound for a property at either Wallis Island, near Forster, or Belmore River, near Kempsey.

The wreckage of the helicopter is taken to a storage facility at Wickham on Saturday night. Picture by Wez

But when the helicopter did not arrive at either location, Port Stephens police were notified and launched an extensive multi-agency search spanning the last few days before the wreckage was discovered.

Emergency services had spent all day Friday and Saturday combing the Port Stephens and Hawks Nest areas from the land, sea and sky in an effort to find the missing aircraft and its passengers.

And Port Stephens-Hunter police and the Marine Area Command resumed the search for the pilot and his dog in the area surrounding where the wreckage was found about 8am on Sunday.

Police say they recovered the wreckage of the aircraft and it will undergo forensic examination.

The remnants of the helicopter were transported on Saturday night to a storage facility at Wickham, photographs of the wreckage showing the extent of the damage.

Investigators say they will examine all recovered components of the aircraft, interview witnesses, obtain and review relevant recorded information including flight tracking data and CCTV footage, collect pilot and aircraft maintenance records and weather information.

A preliminary report is expected to be released with any information found in the initial evidence collection phase in about six to eight weeks.

A final report, detailing factors which may have contributed to the crash and any safety issues will be released at the end of the investigation.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


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