18 Aug 2018

NZ heli pilot killed battling fires in Australia's NSW coast

6:01 pm on 18 August 2018

A helicopter pilot killed while battling fires on New South Wales's south coast yesterday was a New Zealander.

Flames in undergrowth - generic image.

Allan Tull had been contracted to work on the Kingiman fire, which has been burning west of Ulladulla, the NSW Rural Fire Service confirmed (stock photo). Photo: 123RF

Allan Tull, who was 60, grew up in Kerikeri but had lived overseas for many years.

Paramedics were called to Woodstock, near Ulladulla, about 2.15pm after the helicopter crashed into a tree.

Mr Tull was an experienced pilot who had previously helped battle fires in Tasmania in January 2016.

His colleagues have been paying tribute to him, describing him as one of the most experienced fire bombing pilots in the Australia.

The Deputy Commissioner for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Rob Rogers, said Mr Tull was very very experienced and really well-liked.

The chief pilot for Sydney Helicopters, Mark Harrold, said "Tully's" aviation skills and knowledge were of the highest standard.

In a newspaper article in 2011, Mr Tull said he had ticked off nearly every dangerous job in his industry.

The NSW Rural Fire Service confirmed the helicopter had been contracted to work on the Kingiman fire, which has been burning west of Ulladulla.

RFS firefighters and other emergency rescue services called to the site, the RFS said.

Sydney Helicopters confirmed its aircraft was involved in the crash.

The helicopter was built in 1994 and first registered in Australia in 2015.

Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman Peter Gibson said the helicopter had been "involved in firefighting operations and crashed into terrain".

"The pilot was the only person on board," he said.

NSW Police said a crime scene has been established and that the site would be forensically examined.

Four officers from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau were sent from Canberra and Brisbane to begin an investigation.

"This will include the examination of the wreckage, interviewing witnesses, and obtaining any available recorded data for analysis, amongst other activities," a spokesman said in a statement.

"The evidence collection phase will define the size and scope of the investigation and determine the expected timeframe for the completion of a final report."

Sydney Helicopters has been operating for more than three decades and describes itself as the city's "premier helicopter service provider".

It is the longest running commercial helicopter operator in Sydney, with aircraft housed at Parramatta Heliport.

An emergency warning was issued for the blaze on Wednesday, which is still burning in the area of Woodstock, west of Burrill Lake.

It has already burnt more than 1600 hectares.

The NSW RFS said their efforts on Friday would focus on the area around Carriage Road and Kingiman Road.

Emergency Services Minister Troy Grant said the incident was tragic and his deepest sympathies were with the pilot's family and friends.

"My thoughts and prayers are also with the emergency services community, especially the many brigades and units working to contain the Kingiman Fire," he said in a statement.

Local MP Shelly Hancock said it was "truly a sad day".

"The pilot put his life on the line to protect and keep our community safe," she said.

"The entire south coast is thinking of his family at this difficult time."