Outback Wrangler 'devastated' at co-star's death cause

A poorly maintained chopper, a missed fuel stop and a team of outback cowboys allowed to swing from ropes over crocodile nests is the deadly combination that likely killed a Netflix star.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau released a report into the crash on Wednesday, almost 21 months after Outback Wrangler TV personality Chris Wilson plunged to his death in a remote area in West Arnhem Land.

The 34-year-old died while on a crocodile egg hunting mission when a Robinson R44 helicopter crashed while he was attached on a 30-metre line using a harness.

The investigation found the chopper's engine stopped mid-flight and during the emergency landing, pilot Sebastian Robinson released  hooks and a sling line.

Fatal helicopter crash caused by lack of fuel, air transport safety investigators say.

Mr Robinson survived the crash but was critically injured.

The height of the release was probably above nine metres and likely not survivable, ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell found.

"Based on analysis of fuel samples and other evidence, the ATSB investigation found the helicopter was likely not refuelled at a fuel depot about three-quarters of the way between Darwin and the crocodile egg hunting area," Mr Mitchell said.

Crocodile catcher and co-star Matt Wright took to social media to express his surprise at Wednesday's findings.

"I was devastated at the time when he was killed and I'm double devastated to find out that the helicopter run out of fuel while he was in the sling," Wright said in a tearful video.

The bureau also found the pilot's exposure to cocaine in the previous days increased the likelihood of fatigue and inattention, but there was insufficient evidence to determine if he was affected at the time.

Wright, who owned the business, said he would never have let Mr Robinson fly the chopper if he knew about the drug use.

Matt Wright says he would never allowed a cocaine user to chopper his friend on a dangerous mission.

Wright, 44, and his pilot Michael Burbidge were allegedly first on scene, accompanied by former senior police officer Neil Mellon.

The trio were all later charged with perverting the course of justice and destroying evidence.

All three men remain before the courts, with Wright saying he strenuously denied any allegations of wrongdoing.

Mr Mitchell said while there were differing accounts of whether the chopper refuelled, the investigation ultimately found it had not.

The chopper was owned and operated by Wright's company Heli Brook, which the bureau found made a number of errors.

It said the operator was not using a proper safety management system to identify and manage operational hazards.

It also found the helicopter's emergency locator transmitter had been removed from its mount prior to the fatal crash, meaning it did not deploy automatically and delayed the response of emergency services.

Matt Wright
Outback Wrangler star Matt Wright says he is devastated by the crash report.

The investigation revealed damning findings against the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which granted Helibrook an exemption to collect crocodile eggs using slings that were otherwise banned.

By 2017, most safety conditions limiting height, speed and exposure were removed by CASA, meaning Mr Wilson could be attached to the helicopter up to 100 feet.

The regulator said its approvals were based on a careful assessment of risks and operating conditions which were not followed by the Outback Wrangler team.

"We could have better documented our decision-making,"  the authority told AAP.

CASA has since tightened its protocols.

The commissioner stressed the bureau conducted "no blame" investigations.

Months after the crash, the ATSB referred the case to Australian Federal Police, recommending police investigate issues around available evidence.

Outback Wrangler was an adventure TV series filmed in remote Top End locations that aired in more than 90 countries.

The show chronicled the capture and transport of dangerous animals that posed a threat to people, including crocodiles and wild buffalo.

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