Outback Wrangler Matt Wright has sensationally claimed he covered his friend’s dead body while waiting for a rescue chopper to evacuate them after his co-star died in a horror helicopter smash.
Nine months later, 43-year-old Wright was hit with a range of charges relating to the smash – including destroying evidence and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Chris Wilson, 34, was collecting crocodile eggs in a remote area of West Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory, when the chopper he was dangling 30 metres from collided with trees and the ground on February 28 last year.
An investigation was launched into the crash, resulting in Wright, former police officer Neil Mellon, and bush pilot Michael Burbidge being charged over the crash.
The reality TV star has remained silent about the smash since he appeared in Darwin Local Court on November 28 – however, he spoke candidly about the accident on The Bailey Show podcast.
The US-based podcast was recorded in October – before Wright was charged – to promote his new Netflix series Wild Croc Territory, but the interview was only released last month.
Matt Wright spoke candidly about the smash on The Bailey Show podcast, recorded in October (pictured on the podcast)
Matt Wright (pictured with wife Kaia) was charged with seven offences relating to the chopper crash, including attempting to pervert the course of justice, destroying evidence, and fabricating evidence
In the show, Wright alleged to host Jason Bailey: ‘We had to cover his body and load him into the flight, into the rescue chopper and stuff.’
He explained the police investigation was because Mellon, a former police officer who allegedly went to the site with Wright, ‘probably didn’t do exactly what cops were meant to do and it was in the middle of the bush’.
‘Other cops weren’t there so they’re trying to work out what was going on,’ he said.
Wright explained he didn’t know what the correct police protocols were at a crash site, and described it as a ‘learning’ process.
‘We’re learning a lot through this,’ he said.
‘What you can do and what you can’t do in an accident site and, unfortunately, probably some of the stuff that we did at the site wasn’t in protocol to what the police would have wanted us to do and that’s what they’re looking into.’
Wright said the situation was ‘pretty sh*tty’ because it was hard to grieve Mr Wilson while police were investigating.
Chris ‘Willow’ Wilson (pictured) died in the crash in west Arnhem Land while collecting crocodile eggs
Mr Wilson was collecting crocodile eggs in a remote area of west Arnhem Land when the Robinson R44 helicopter he was hanging 30 metres below collided with trees and the ground
‘It’s ongoing investigations, you know, it will take its course over time and the cops will get what they want to get and we’ll move.’
He said the crash was difficult for him to talk about because Wilson had a wife and kids.
On the day of the crash, three choppers set off from Noonamah at around 7am for a crocodile egg collection operation in West Arnhem Land.
After stopping to re-fuel at about 8.30am, the crew flew to a staging area in King River, and at 9am, two of the three helicopters, carrying Mr Burbidge and Ty Richardson, and Jock Purcell and Tim Luck, left to begin collecting eggs 12km away.
The third chopper was carrying Mr Wilson and his pilot Sebastian Robinson, who instead began their operation at a nearby nest.
It wasn’t until just after 10am when the two other crews were having morning tea that they began to wonder about Mr Wilson and Mr Robinson.
Police officer Neil Mellon (above) was arrested on August 25 after allegedly interfering with the helicopter crash scene that killed Outback Wrangler star Chris Wilson
Matt Wright is pictured arriving at Darwin Local Court in November. He was granted bail
Burbidge then returned to look for them alone and found the wreckage of the aircraft and Mr Wilson’s body lying 40m away, while the pilot was critically injured.
Burbidge is then understood to have left the scene to get reception and call for help, before returning to the site of the crash with Mr Richardson, Mr Purcell and Mr Luck.
CareFlight arrived at the crash site at 12.30pm and airlifted Mr Robinson to hospital.
About 10 minutes later, police officer Neil Mellon, Wright and crocodile farmer Mick Burns arrived at the scene.
The group of seven stayed with Mr Wilson’s body until Careflight returned at 4pm to retrieve it.
They then flew to Mr Wilson’s property to console his wife, who was already surrounded by their own wives.
In the wake of the crash that stunned fans of the National Geographic show, Wright, Mellon and Burbidge were hit with a string of charges.
Wright (pictured with his wife and son) was charged over the crash in late November which was followed by a brief hearing at the Darwin Local Court. His matter will be mentioned again in March
Mellon is accused of interfering with the scene and was arrested as he arrived for work in August, 2022.
Police allegedly found illegal wildlife, fireworks and firearms during a raid of his home.
Wright was charged over the crash in late November which was followed by a brief hearing at the Darwin Local Court, where he was given bail.
His charges include attempting to pervert the course of justice, destroying evidence, fabricating evidence, two counts of unlawful entry, making a false declaration and interfering with witnesses.
Burbidge was charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, destruction of evidence, providing a false statement in a statutory declaration, and attempt to pervert the course of justice.
Wright relocated from Darwin to the Gold Coast with his wife and two of his children in August where he remains on bail.
His matter was mentioned in Darwin Local Court on January 25. He is due back in court on March 9.
OUTBACK WRANGLER TIMELINE
FEBRUARY 28, 2022
7:03am Pilot Seb Robinson and egg collector Chris ‘Willow’ Wilson are on one of three Robinson R44 helicopters which set off from Noonamah on a crocodile egg collection operation on West Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, about 500km from Darwin. Each chopper has one pilot and one egg collector. They fly for 90 minutes to a drum refuelling site in the bush near Mount Borradaile.
8.30am Choppers fly from drum refuelling area to the King River staging area, 20 minutes away. Mr Wilson allegedly shares a picture of the fuel gauge showing it was almost full to their shared WhatsApp group.
Around 9am Choppers split up to go to their various egg collection areas. Two head 12km north-east and collected eggs from nine nests between 0911 and 1014.
10.14am The other two crews realise they’ve not heard from Robinson and Wilson and chief helicopter pilot – and director of Remote Helicopters Australia – Michael Burbridge, 44, goes to look for them.
10.36am It finds the wreckage of their helicopter, 30km south of South Goulburn Island. Mr Wilson, 34, is dead 40m from the wreckage and Mr Robinson, 28, is seriously hurt with spinal injuries on the ground next to the aircraft. Their chopper has collided with trees and terrain. The second chopper briefly takes off again to make radio contact and raise the alarm.
Outback Wrangler Matt Wright allegedly flies to the crash scene with off-duty police sergeant Neil Mellon and Darwin publican and crocodile farmer Mick Burns. Mr Burns has not been charged with any offences.
12.30pm A CareFlight helicopter arrives at the scene and airlifts the pilot to Maningrida, where he was transferred by plane to Darwin.
APRIL 19, 2022: The Air Transport Safety Bureau release their initial findings into the crash, with the full report expected in the first quarter of 2023. It finds the helicopter’s engine stopped prior to impacting the ground. Just 250ml of fuel was in the fuel bladders which were both intact, but the report notes fuel may have drained into a nearby creek as the fuel system was damaged in the crash. There were no other obvious signs of mechanical failure and no fire at the scene.
AUGUST 25, 2022: Father of three Neil Mellon, 47, is arrested shortly after he arrives for work at Darwin police station. Police raid his home and allegedly find illegal wildlife, fireworks and firearms.
AUGUST 26, 2022: Mellon is charged with 31 offences, including attempting to pervert the course of justice and stealing and unlawfully accessing data. His charges also relate to weapons, firearms and wildlife offences, as well as alleged destruction of evidence in relation to a major crash investigation.
Later the same day, his wife Sandi, also a serving NT police officer, posts accusations on Facebook, unrelated to the crash, about a former close female friend which were later deleted.
Mellon is understood to have since resigned from the police after 27 years’ service.
SEPTEMBER, 2022: Outback Wrangler and father of four Matt Wright, 43, relocates with his pregnant wife Kaia from Darwin to the Gold Coast in Queensland.
SEPTEMBER 20, 2022: Helicopter pilot Michael Burbridge – who was first on the scene of the tragedy – is charged in connection with the crash. He is accused of destroying evidence, conspiracy and attempting to pervert the course of justice, and providing a false statement.
NOVEMBER 28, 2022: NT Police issue an arrest warrant for Wright and he’s told to present himself at Darwin police station within 48 hours to face at least six serious charges concerning the crash. They relate to his actions before and after the crash and allege he tampered with evidence.
NOVEMBER 29, 2022: Wright checks in for an 8.15am flight from Sydney to Darwin with his wife and their newborn daughter Dusty. He is charged in the afternoon with a string of offences in relation to the chopper crash.
NOVEMBER 30, 2022: Wright appears at Darwin Court on seven charges relating to the crash which he strenuously denies and is granted bail until the next court appearance on January 25, 2023.
Wright is charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice, destroying evidence, fabricating evidence, unlawfully entering a building, unlawfully entering a dwelling, making a false declaration and interfering with witnesses in a criminal investigation or court process by making threats/reprisals.