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Someone will die: Wife recalls pilot’s chilling warning over chopper’s safety

Decorated army pilot Captain Danniel Lyon warned his colleagues someone would die one day in an incident with a helicopter.

May 01, 2024, updated May 01, 2024
A composite image supplied and generated on Tuesday, August 01, 2023, shows Australian Army soldier Corporal Alex Naggs (top left), Australian Army officer Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent (top right), Australian Army soldier Warrant Officer Class 2 Joseph Laycock (bottom left) and Australian Army officer Captain Danniel Lyon (bottom right), who are missing after their Taipan MRH-90 helicopter crashed near Queensland's Hamilton Island on Friday morning as a part of Exercise Talisman Sabre. The search continues for four servicemen aboard an army helicopter that went down during military drills near Queensland's Hamilton Island on Friday morning. (AAP Image/Supplied by the Department of Defence) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

A composite image supplied and generated on Tuesday, August 01, 2023, shows Australian Army soldier Corporal Alex Naggs (top left), Australian Army officer Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent (top right), Australian Army soldier Warrant Officer Class 2 Joseph Laycock (bottom left) and Australian Army officer Captain Danniel Lyon (bottom right), who are missing after their Taipan MRH-90 helicopter crashed near Queensland's Hamilton Island on Friday morning as a part of Exercise Talisman Sabre. The search continues for four servicemen aboard an army helicopter that went down during military drills near Queensland's Hamilton Island on Friday morning. (AAP Image/Supplied by the Department of Defence) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Months later, he was killed in a crash alongside Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock and Corporal Alexander Naggs when their MRH-90 Taipan plunged into the sea.

The chopper, given the call sign Bushman 83, had been flying in formation with three others for Lindeman Island in Queensland, as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre in July 2023.

His wife Caitland Lyon remembers the terrible moment defence representatives arrived at her door.

“I wouldn’t let them in,” she told an inquiry into the crash on Wednesday.

“In my mind, it had to be a prank – like we were being broken into – there was no way in my mind that this could actually be happening.”

When she eventually let them in, they told her the father of their two children was missing, even though they knew there had been a catastrophic impact.

“It would have been easier to be told that the crew was dead … far less cruel than having us hoping and praying for a miracle that wasn’t going to happen,” she said.

A few months before the tragedy, Captain Lyon had attended a meeting with defence to discuss an incident over Jervis Bay, when an MRH-90 suffered an engine failure in March 2023, causing it to ditch into the sea.

The crew had been praised for their handling of the emergency and no one was killed but Captain Lyon did not feel like the issue had been rectified.

Neither he nor Ms Lyon believed adequate measures had been put in place to prevent a similar incident happening again.

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“Someone is going to die from this one day,” he told the meeting.

Ms Lyon recalled he “definitely didn’t feel like he was being heard or that the safety of his crew was being prioritised”.

He had been told the aircraft would flip over when it ditched in water because of flotation devices and that his crew had been trained to escape from an upside-down helicopter.

But that did not happen during the Jervis Bay incident.

“It was odd to Dan that what they had been trained to do, wasn’t what happened,” Ms Lyon said.

“The engine failed, that was the conclusion and we move forward.”

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