A helicopter crash in eastern Australia resulted in the deaths of two men. The Robinson R44 helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff, killing 60-year-old Mike deGruy, an American biologist and cinematographer, and 51-year old Australian native Andrew Wight, a pilot, diver, writer and producer. The R 44 helicopter crashed in Collier Range National Park, located between Newman and Meekatharra.
The two men were a crew on their way to film mining sites in the nearby area for an upcoming documentary. They were staying at the Kumarina Roadhouse and Tavern, near Meekatharra. The men had been staying at the Tavern for the previous three days and were booked for an additional three weeks to complete the survey and film project. The survey was under way at the time of the crash. The Australian Maritime Authority was dispatched to the scene where the three men were pronounced dead at the scene and the fourth was flown to a nearby station, and then later taken by helicopter to Perth for further examination.
DeGruy and Wight were both collaborators with James Cameron on several deep-sea documentaries. Degruy won several Emmys and British Academy of Film and Television Awards over the past 30 years, and worked on films that include the Blue Planet series and Last Mysteries of the Titanic. DeGruy also hosted deep-sea film production for PBS, BBC and National Geographic. Along with the television and movie projects, he was also an event speaker and interviewer. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Wight produced dozens of films over the past 20 years, as well as popular documentaries that include Ghosts of the Abyss and Expedition: Bismarck and Last Mysteries of the Titanic. Wight worked with Cameron to co-produce the film Sanctum 3D which was a box office smash in Australia in 2010. Wight is survived by his wife and son.
National Geographic released a statement saying “They died doing exactly what they loved most, heading out to sea on a new and personally challenging expedition…They were passionate storytellers who lived by the explorer’s code of humour, empathy, optimism, and courage. Their deaths are a tremendous loss for the world of underwater exploration, conservation and film-making.”
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has assigned a team of investigators to the crash, as the cause of the crash is yet to be determined. Aviation safety advocate and pilot of 21 years Ron Goldman of Baum Hedlund law released as statement:
“It is particularly distressing to hear of yet another fatal R-44 crash. The alarming frequency of Robinson Helicopter crashes suggests to me a serious, and systemic, disregard for good engineering practices and procedures, and compromises that endanger the lives of all who fly in these machines. “
There have been several helicopter crashes over the past few years in Australia, including a crash in South Australia that killed three ABC employees in August, and a separate crash that killed Jillian Jenyns, a 48-year-old Kimberly pastoralist in July.