CLONCURRY is in shock as “an honest hard working family man” died in a helicopter crash on a cattle property north of the town.
Brent Acton, 40, is a father of two children and husband of Shona. He was killed when the Robinson R22 he was piloting for the Cloncurry Mustering Company (CMC) crashed. Investigators examine whether or not a nearby powerline was involved.
Police formally confirmed on Thursday morning that Mr Acton was the man in the crash.
The crash site was on Lanark Station, about 15 kilometres north of Cloncurry and near Burke Development and Sedan Dip roads. Mr Acton was the only person in the helicopter when it crashed at 7.15am, Wednesday.
Cloncurry Police Station’s officer-in-charge, Senior Sergeant Brad Rix, was one of the first at the crash site.
The crash was first reported to the Queensland Ambulance Service by a CMC pilot who had seen the crash site.
“The chopper itself had been significantly damaged, I guess both from impact and fire,” Senior Sergeant Rix said.
“And there was some debris scattered around the impact zone.”
A report will be prepared for the coroner and will include investigations from the police, the District Forensic Crash Unit, and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
“It will be a combined investigation which has commenced from statements from family, employees and people last to see (him),” Senior Sergeant Rix said.
He said there would also be a mechanical inspection of the helicopter.
Senior Sergeant Rix was uncertain when the report would be completed due to processes necessary in examining the damaged helicopter.
The local community was heavily impacted by the crash, he said.
“When you’ve got an honest, hard working family man involved in a tragedy such as this, it obviously affects immediate family, but in a small community the effects are far reaching.
“It affects a lot of people.”
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman Peter Gibson confirmed the type of helicopter and said the Australian Transport Safety Bureau was investigating the incident on-site.
He said it was believed that Mr Acton was travelling to a job rather than mustering when he crashed into the powerline.
“It does happen, yes. It doesn't happen often, thankfully,” he said.
“Mustering pilots obviously are trained for low-level flying, clearly, that’s what they do,” Mr Gibson said.
“Part of low-level flying of course is awareness of risks such as powerlines and there is specific training you do to be able to manage those safety risks.”
Cloncurry Mustering Company prided itself on a high standard of safety developed since it began in the north west in 1984.
It originated in Cloncurry and has since expanded with bases in Normanton and Mareeba, with helicopters also flown from Mount Isa, Middleton, and Halls Creek.
It’s the third tragedy for the Acton family in six years. In May, 2014, the head of Acton Land and Cattle, Graeme Acton, died after coming off a horse during a campdraft near Rockhampton. He had been 63, and had headed one of the largest farming operations, Acton Land and Cattle. Nephew Joseph Action died in a car accident near Normanton in 2011.
Cloncurry mayor Greg Campbell was yet to prepare a statement on Wednesday night regarding the crash and its impact felt in the community, and was hesitant to comment until the Queensland Police Service formally identified Mr Acton. He was in a conference on Thursday morning.
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