Hunter Valley helicopter crash recovery begins

Two investigations are under way into a helicopter crash in the NSW Hunter Valley in which three environmentalists were killed. Courtesy ABC News 24.

The owner of a helicopter that crashed in thick bushland near Cessnock, killing all three environmentalists on board, had his licence temporarily suspended in 2013 for dangerous flying.

Millionaire businessman-turned-landscape photographer Richard Green, 74, his graphic artist wife Carolyn, 71, and their friend and filmmaker John Davis, 72, were killed on their way back to Mona Vale from an anti-mining festival in Breeza, south of Tamworth, on Saturday.

The wreckage of Mr Green’s modified EC135 helicopter was discovered on Monday night in rough, mountainous terrain in the Hunter Valley.

Killed in helicopter crash: Richard and Carolyn Green.Killed in helicopter crash: Richard and Carolyn Green. Photo: richardgreen.net.au

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said three investigators will travel to the rugged crash site on Tuesday to search for clues as to how the helicopter crashed.

Superintendent Craig Jackson, from Central Hunter police, said they expected to retrieve the three bodies on Tuesday and forensically examine the crash site.”The site is accessible but obviously we have to take certain equipment in there to get our job done. It is proving a challenge,” he said.

Filmmaker John Davis also died in the helicopter crash.Filmmaker John Davis also died in the helicopter crash. Photo: Facebook

Mr Green, who sold his UK business in the 1980s and took an early retirement to travel Australia in his “flying campervan”, had his helicopter licence suspended for six months in 2013 .

He had four incidents in one year where he almost collided with other aircraft due to his unnecessary manoeuvres and one incident where he struck power lines 105 metres from the point of take off, causing the power line to tear off part of his helicopter.

He flew a further 200 metres across a gully before landing to inspect his helicopter and then taking off again, despite significant damage to his aircraft, according to the judgment in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The judgement noted a “pattern of non-compliance over some years” by Mr Green.

Mr Green tried to appeal CASA’s decision, saying that it was “made with malice” but he was unsuccessful.

Former independent MP Tony Windsor, who spoke at the Breeza event on Saturday and met all three crash victims, said the trio made a dramatic exit in the eye-catching helicopter, performing a circuit around the crowd before flying off.

Mr Davis, a former Greens candidate for Davidson, interviewed Mr Windsor on Saturday afternoon about political lobbying and mining, possibly for a documentary he was making with Mr and Mrs Green on the environmental damage wrought by coal mines.

“I had a long conversation with John and probably did the last interview John ever did,” said Mr Windsor.

“He wanted to have a yarn on a few things, mostly the influence of paid lobbyists in Canberra, particularly in the mining sector.

“He gave me his card and I’d put it on the beside table.”

He said the three victims were keen environmentalists with a passion for showing the natural beauty of Australian landscapes.

They arrived at Breeza Station on Saturday morning, listened to about three hours worth of talks that afternoon and left around 3.30pm.

“About 800 people came to that event over the weekend, people travelled from near and far and the three of them really represented that body of people,” Mr Windsor said.

“They had come to learn about this magnificent piece of country. They went out of their way to do that so it’s tragic to think [the crash] happened on the back of their concerns for other people.”

It’s believed Mr Davis’ wife, Felicity, filed a missing persons report on Monday morning when the trio had failed to return home to the northern beaches.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said there had been no mayday call or emergency distress beacon signal from the privately-owned helicopter.

Mr Green modified the helicopter into what he called his “flying campervan” for him and his wife to travel around Australia.