The first two victims of the horror helicopter crash north of Melbourne that killed five people on Thursday have been named.
The aircraft came down at Mount Disappointment, north of Melbourne, on Thursday morning, killing a pilot and four passengers.
Meat industry boss Paul Troja, 73, was one of the passengers. Pilot Dean Neal, 32, was also killed.
Mr Troja lived in Albert Park, in inner-Melbourne, and headed the board of Gippsland meat-processing company Radfords. He was remembered on Friday as a passionate and accomplished leader who will be dearly missed.
Aviation safety experts were combing through the helicopter wreckage at the remote site to determine what caused the crash.
Along with Mr Troja and Mr Neal, those on board were a 50-year-old Inverloch woman and two NSW men, aged 59 and 70. The other names are yet to be released.
The remains of all five were found by crews who spent four hours battling steep terrain and dense forest to reach the wreckage near Blairs Hut at Mount Disappointment, about 80 kilometers north of Melbourne, after the crash scene was found by police air wing.
Mr Troja’s son Luke said the flight was meant to be one of his father’s last work trips.
“He wanted to spend more time with the family, but he wanted to do one last job to get a bit more money behind him, so he could help us out,” Luke Troja told the Nine Network.
“This was going to be it, and he was going to give it away.”
Paul Troja had four children and five grandchildren, the youngest of whom is just two days old.
Mr Neal was remembered by his family on Friday as a “remarkable” man, who “would have done anything in his power to deliver his passengers safely to their destination”.
“He was a remarkable son, brother, friend and pilot,” father Rodney Neal said on Friday afternoon.
Microflite, which owned the helicopter involved, also remembered Mr Neal as a highly respected pilot.
The company has suspended all services until at least Tuesday.
“The Microflite family have been deeply shocked and devastated by this tragic incident,” the company said in a statement.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said Microflite had a very strong safety record.
ATSB crews from Canberra and Melbourne will take at least three days to analyze the crash site.
“What we do know is it was in company with another helicopter from the same operator and that they lost visual contact,” Mr Mitchell said.
Drone analysis of the helicopter’s flight path, and assessment of flight control records and weather conditions, will be part of the investigation.
Emergency services spent four hours on Thursday battling steep terrain and dense forest to reach the wreckage after a police air wing found the crash site.
The accident is Victoria’s deadliest aviation disaster since February 2017, when five people were killed after a charter plane crashed into Melbourne’s Essendon DFO shopping centre.
That crash was the state’s worst civil aviation accident for 30 years.
The helicopter that crashed on Thursday was one of two flying business trip passengers in convoy from Batman Park in central Melbourne to Ulupna, near the Victoria/NSW border.
The other raised the alarm before landing safely at Moorabbin.
Acting Inspector Josh Langelaan on Thursday said there was low cloud over Mount Disappointment at the time.
The ATSB’s preliminary report is expected in six to eight weeks.