A MAJOR investigation is underway after three people were killed in a helicopter crash in bushland south of Cessnock
Searchers located the wreckage in the Watagans on Monday night after families of retired businessman turned landscape photographer Richard Green, his graphic artist wife, Carolyn Green and their travelling companion, renowned documentary maker John Davis, reported them missing earlier in the day.
Ten aircraft had spent the day searching for the privately-owned EC135 helicopter which had left Breeza, south of Tamworth on Saturday evening bound for Mona Vale but not arrived.
The trio attended the Harvest Festival at Breeza against Shenhua’s coal mine but left after a few hours.
Their flight to Sydney’s northern beaches should have taken two hours and no mayday call or emergency beacon signal had been detected.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority confirmed on Monday night that one of the search helicopters located the wreckage, south of Cessnock.
‘‘A paramedic from another helicopter involved in the search was winched down and confirmed the wreckage was from the Eurocopter,’’ AMSA said in a statement.
The Newcastle Herald understands the bodies were found outside the helicopter and were probably thrown free on impact.
AMSA were notified on Monday morning that the twin engine helicopter had gone missing. By Monday night it had narrowed the search area down to a 345 square kilometre area south of Cessnock in the Hunter Valley.
‘‘There has been no mayday call or emergency distress beacon signal associated with the helicopter,’’ the authority said.
It said the search area was narrowed to the area where the wreckage was found following information provided by Airservices Australia.
Weather conditions in the area were severe in the Hunter region on Saturday, with localised thunderstorms and rain.
AMSA said the crash site was in mountainous terrain, covered with dense vegetation.
On his photography website, Mr Green said he and his wife use the helicopter as a ‘‘flying camper van’’ to ‘‘find, access and photographically record some of Australia’s most remote, wild and beautiful environments’’.
‘‘After early retirement from a successful business career in England, I decided to take up the challenge of learning to fly a helicopter,’’ he said.
‘‘I subsequently purchased my own, and emigrated to Australia where I met Carolyn. For over 20 years we have made regular helicopter trips together to distant and otherwise inaccessible outback locations - our objective being to find and photographically record some of the continent’s most remote, wild and beautiful environments.
‘‘The helicopter has been specially modified to act as a self-sufficient camp base.’’
My heartfelt sympathy to Richard and Carolyn Green's family and to John Davis' family - they came to Breeza to support those who need help.— Tony Windsor (@TonyHWindsor) November 9, 2015
Andrew Pursehouse, who owns the Breeza property where the Greens’ helicopter landed and took off from, said Mr Davis called ahead on Saturday morning to ask for the co-ordinates of the property.
Mr Pursehouse said they landed near a shed on Breeza Station just after 11am, stayed for some speeches and left around 3.30pm.
Before they left, the Greens asked a local man for directions to the Whitehaven mine at Werris Creek, about 50 kilometres from Breeza.
‘‘There are some environment issues and they wanted to have a look at that, obviously,‘‘ he said.
Mr Pursehouse said police rang early on Monday morning to ask for the details of the pilot. They later told him that Mr Davis’s family had reported those on board were missing.