CASA ‘ready, willing’ to talks with Netflix star Chris Wilson’s widow, but money unlikely

The National Aviation Authority has agreed to talks with lawyers representing the widow of Outback Wrangler star Chris Wilson, although financial compensation remains unlikely.

Mr Wilson was killed when his helicopter crashed during a crocodile egg collection mission in remote West Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, in February 2022.

In its final report, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that the crash, which also seriously injured pilot Sebastian Robinson, was likely caused by running out of fuel.

Ms Wilson has since launched legal proceedings against the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and co-star Matt Wright and his company Helibrook over the incident.

Appearing in Federal Court on Friday, CASA’s lawyer, Thomas Miller, said the agency had agreed to mediation but was unlikely to make any monetary offers.

“We have given indications that we will probably not be able to make monetary settlement offers and part of that will be the complexity of the issues in dispute,” he said.

“There is a new duty of care charged to CASA that it should have taken various actions (including) approved legislative instruments in relation to surveillance activities.

“There is a helicopter that crashed and the circumstances are unclear as to why. At issue is the existence of duty care (and) the scope and content of that duty.”

Mr Miller told the court he would expect expert evidence on “key aspects of liability and causation” to be presented before any monetary settlement.

Even once that occurred, Miller said CASA was limited in its guidelines and approvals on whether and when it could make an offer in terms of the transaction.

“CASA, on the advice of the Legal Service, has no right to enter into commercial agreements… There must be a real and appreciable risk of liability supported by evidence,” he said.

“In this case, there must be approval not only from CASA but also from other agencies, including the Department of the Attorney General.

“There are a number of people required to review the evidence when it becomes available.

“We have communicated that we are ready, willing and able to attempt to narrow the issues in dispute and chart a path forward, but it is not likely that we will make an offer.”

Justice Elizabeth Raper said there was “concern on the part of the court” about CASA’s position, saying mediation was typical before all the evidence was made available.

He noted that CASA was ultimately “accountable to the Australian public” and that there was nothing to stop Mr Wright and Helibrook settling the matter separately.

Ms Wilson’s lawyer, Matthew Kalyk, also noted her concern, adding that he “does not accept that they (CASA) are prohibited from bidding prior to the submission of evidence”.

Ultimately, all four parties to the dispute, including Mr. Wright and Helibrook’s lawyer, Darryn Wright, agreed to “move forward” and engage in mediation talks at a later date.

Chris “Willow” Wilson co-starred with Mr Wright in National Geographic’s Outback Wrangler and Netflix’s Wild Croc Territory, both of which launched in 2021-22.

Ms Wilson brought the case in the Federal Court in December 2023 and is understood to be seeking damages, interest, costs, interest on costs. and other court orders.

Published last year, the ATSB’s final report found that Mr Wilson’s helicopter had probably not refueled at a depot between Darwin and the crocodile egg collection area.

The report stated that Mr Robinson had probably not identified the state of fuel depletion and that Helibrook had not used its safety management systems correctly.

Mr Wright and Helibrook are separately facing two counts of reckless conduct for failing in their duties after legal action was brought by Work Safe NT in February.

Work Safe NT said it had found “sufficient evidence (of) conduct intended to falsify the number of flight hours accrued by the aircraft over a long period of time”.

The alleged conduct included interfering with Hobbs meters, which measure an aircraft’s operating time, and failing to accurately record flight times in the maintenance release.

If convicted and convicted, Helibrook faces a maximum penalty of $6 million, while Wright faces a maximum penalty of $1.2 million, five years in prison, or both.

Read related topics:Netflix

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