Deni man survives helicopter crash

May 12, 2018

Nick Dohnt and his finacee Sophie Gatacre.

Former Deniliquin man Nick Dohnt is lucky to be alive after his helicopter crashed near the Northern Territory and Queensland border this week.

The 30 year-old, who has been a pilot for nine years, crashed on a property near the Alpurrurulam community on Monday afternoon.

Photos taken by Northern Territory police following the incident show his helicopter looked like a pile of scrap metal.

Notified of the incident later Monday night, Nick’s parents Vicki Henderson and Neil Dohnt made the trip to Brisbane on Tuesday morning.

They arrived at their son’s bedside at the Royal Brisbane Hospital about lunch time on Wednesday.

As they spoke to the Pastoral Times yesterday morning, their son was being prepared for reconstructive surgery to his nose.

Vicki said it was one of the more serious injuries he sustained as a result of the crash.

‘‘He has a small tear to the spleen and a fracture to one finger, and stitches across the mouth,’’ she said.

‘‘He’s having surgery on his nose, and where the seatbelt was he’s got almighty bruising.

‘‘He was bashed around a fair bit.’’

Vicki said it’s so far unclear how long Nick’s recovery will take, or when he’ll be able to leave hospital.

But she said everyone is confident it will be quick.

‘‘He was up walking a little this morning,’’ Vicki said yesterday.

‘‘I think he hopes to be back flying shortly — quicker than we thought, although I would rather he didn’t fly again.’’

Nick has great motivation to push for a speedy recovery, with his fiancee and fellow former local Sophie Gatacre due to give birth to their first child in about eight weeks.

The pair celebrated their engagement at home in Deniliquin in February this year, after Nick’s romantic proposal at the Gulf of Carpentaria in October.

‘‘Nick flew me over the gulf and had ‘will you marry me?’ written in the sand,’’ Sophie told the Pastoral Times following their engagement party.

‘‘I got the shock of my life.’’

Becoming a helicopter pilot was a natural progression for Nick, who has been working in stock camps for a number of years.

‘‘After finishing school at Deniliquin High he went to the Katherine Rural College, and then worked in a stock camp in the Northern Territory. After a while he became head stockman,’’ Vicki said.

‘‘Once he started in the job he had his heart set on flying helicopters.

‘‘He’s been flying about nine years so has a lot of flying experience. This was his first crash.’’

Nick is believed to have been mustering at the time of his crash.

In providing some details about the incident on Tuesday, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said it was Nick’s registered beacon which led to him being found.

‘‘A distress beacon aided in the rescue of a seriously injured pilot from his helicopter after it crashed just inside the Northern Territory border,’’ the authority reported.

‘‘AMSA sent the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter from Mt Isa to evacuate the pilot for medical treatment just before 4.30pm local time.

‘‘Staff from the local cattle station as well as another helicopter and plane also assisted during the rescue.’’

Nick was initially taken to Mount Isa Hospital by the RACQ LifeFlight Rescue helicopter, before being transferred to Brisbane.

The crash is being investigated by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

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