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Probe says Australian chopper ran dry on crocodile egg hunt

An Australian crocodile egg hunter was killed after the helicopter he was dangling from ran out of fuel mid-flight, accident investigators said Wednesday. The pilot of the Robinson R44 helicopter took cocaine in the days before the February 2022 accident, and likely failed to refuel as planned during the Northern Territory outing, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in its final report. The crocodile egg collector, “Outback Wrangler” television series personality Chris Wilson, had been attached to the helicopter from a 100-foot (30-metre) line when disaster struck, it said. When the fuel ran out and the helicopter fell, “the pilot released the egg collector above a likely-survivable height, fatally injuring him”, the safety authority said. Soon after, the fatally injured egg collector was found on the ground, still wearing a harness and line, which had been disconnected from the aircraft, it said. The pilot lay beside the helicopter with “serious injuries”. Investigators said the pilot had failed to notice the dropping fuel before the tank ran dry. They found “the pilot’s exposure to cocaine within the previous few days increased the likelihood of fatigue, depression and inattention, however there was insufficient evidence to determine whether these effects occurred”. The Northern Territory allows hunters to collect wild crocodile eggs to help manage populations, allowing them to be sold to farms that use the reptiles for their leather.

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