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Aust helicopter pilot dies in crash - Sky News Australia

Updated: 20:20, Tuesday October 2, 2012

Aust helicopter pilot dies in crash

A popular Australian helicopter pilot was killed on a Vanuatu island after a cable dangling beneath his aircraft clipped trees, an investigation has found.

Veteran flyer Phil Cotter was helping build a telecommunications tower two kilometres from Unua village, on Malekula, in the Vanuatu archipelago, on August 26, 2011.

The 62-year-old, originally from NSW, spent much of the day shuttling materials, fuel and water between Unua and the construction site using a metal cargo cable slung under his MD Helicopters 369D five-seater.

But late in the afternoon, as Mr Cotter and his two passengers approached the tiny village one last time, the cable clipped some trees and flew up into the chopper blades.

The contact instantly rendered the aircraft uncontrollable and it plunged 15 metres to the ground, killing Mr Cotter - who just a month earlier had featured in a Nine Network documentary.

His two passengers were injured but survived.

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigation report, published on Tuesday, found that Mr Cotter was probably unaware the cargo cable was still attached to the aircraft when it crashed.

'Therefore (he) did not take into account its length when assessing the required terrain clearance during the final approach to the village,' the report stated.

The ATSB also found Mr Cotter and his passengers were not wearing helmets or the installed shoulder harnesses - both of which might have helped prevent their injuries.

Lots of tributes have been written about Mr Cotter since his death.

His mates have described how the fun-loving former Queensland cattle musterer became well-known for flying in a tee-shirt, shorts and thongs.

Mr Cotter spent time working in the mineral exploration industry in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Burma before settling in Vanuatu during the 1980s.

He appeared in an episode the Nine Network's 60 Minutes program about Vanuatu's volcanic Mount Marum in July 2011.