A helicopter crash that killed a popular pilot and a 12-year-old girl was the result of the tail falling apart during flight, investigators say.
The Robinson R44 helicopter crashed on July 4 near Broome in Western Australia, resulting in the death of pilot Troy Thomas, 40, and Amber Jess, 12.
The pilot’s daughter and Amber’s friend Mia Thomas, 12, as well as family friend Maddison Down, 24, were also seriously injured and remain in hospital.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Greg Hood said on Friday that CCTV footage and the wreckage had been examined so far in the ongoing investigation.
Investigators says a helicopter crash (pictured) near Broome, in Western Australia, on July 4 was the result of the tail assembly falling apart shortly after take off
Popular pilot Troy Thomas, 40, and Amber Jess, 12, were killed in the crash (pictured, Amber holds a turtle at her cousin Emily’s wedding in 2018)
‘ATSB investigators have been able to determine that the helicopter’s tail rotor gearbox, tail rotor and tail assembly separated from the helicopter soon after take-off,’ he said.
The out-of-control helicopter then fell to the ground, but CCTV footage will not be released due to its potentially distressing nature, he added.
Parts of the wreckage will be transported back to the ATSB’s technical facilities in Canberra for further examination.
Mr Thomas, 40, (pictured) was killed in the crash with his daughter Mia Thomas, 12, as well as family friend Maddison Down, 24, also suffering serious injuries
Mr Hood also revealed another pilot, who flew the aircraft two days earlier, had reported feeling unusual vibrations through the tail rotor pedals. Investigators have interviewed him.
Mr Thomas confirmed the unusual vibrations during a short flight and maintenance personnel subsequently conducted a dynamic tail rotor balance the day before the accident.
‘At this stage, the reasons for the in-flight break-up and the significance of the reported vibrations through the tail rotor pedals are not known,’ Mr Hood said.
‘While the investigation is ongoing, the ATSB urges any R44 pilot that experiences unusual vibrations through the tail rotor pedals to land as soon as possible.’
Investigators revealed another pilot, who flew the aircraft two days earlier, had reported feeling unusual vibrations through the tail rotor pedals (pictured, the crash site
Amber (pictured, centre), 12, her father Clint (left) and her mother Fiona (right). The parents made a heartbreaking tribute to Amber on Thursday
There are 558 R44s on the Australian civil aircraft register.
On Thursday, Amber’s parents Fiona and Clint, who wished to withhold their surnames, paid tribute to their young daughter.
Mother Fiona described her daughter as ‘generous, special and irreplaceable’.
‘I want to thank you, my darling angel girl, for gracing me with the best 12 years of my life,’ she said.
‘Your legacy will shine through us so brightly, Amber Jess. You were my best friend, and I will love you till the end of days.’
Amber cradles her baby cousin Louis (pictured). Her mother Fiona described Amber as ‘generous, special and irreplaceable’
Her father Clint added that the time he had with his daughter was a ‘blessing’.
‘My beautiful Amber you are the most amazing and special young girl I have ever known and I feel so blessed to have called you my daughter,’ he said.
‘You have touched my heart in so many ways and I will never forget you my darling.’
In a moving family statement provided to Daily Mail Australia, relatives described Amber as an ‘all-rounder’ who excelled in academics, sports and community service.
A family friend has now started a GoFundMe page (pictured) to raise money for a memorial bench for Amber, which they plan to place in front of a Mandurah beach
‘She (Amber) really was an all-rounder. She loved sport but always got academic mentions and awards at school,’ the family said.
‘She was also a little adventurer and loved nature and animals… and a little prankster always making people laugh. She wasn’t the kind of kid that was in front of a screen.’
Having grown up in Mandurah, Amber called the beach her ‘happy place’ and loved spending time by the ocean.
A family friend has now started a GoFundMe page to raise money for a memorial bench for Amber, which they plan to place in front of a Mandurah beach.
Mia Thomas, 12, (pictured, centre, with mum Sophie, left) survived a horror helicopter crash that killed her father Troy Thomas (right) on Saturday afternoon. Fiona sent her condolences to Sophie, who has lost her husband and father to her children
Amber’s mother Fiona also sent their condolences to Mr Thomas’ wife Sophie, who is a close friend of theirs, and sent her best wishes to Mia and Ms Down, who are in hospital.
‘We express our condolences to our beautiful friend Sophie (Mr Thomas’ wife) who has lost her husband and the father of her children,’ she said.
‘We are hoping and praying for the best possible outcome for our two beautiful friends (Mia and Ms Down) who are fighting for their lives in this horrific accident.’
Mr Thomas had run the award-winning Horizontal Falls and Seaplane Adventures since 2006.
Mr Thomas (pictured, right, with actor Ernie Dingo) was a leading pioneer in the state’s tourism industry and owner of Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures