Netflix star Chris Wilson’s widow takes court action to freeze Outback Wrangler Matt Wright’s assets

Kristin Shorten
The Nightly
Danielle Wilson launched civil proceedings against the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Wright’s company Helibrook over her husband Chris Wilson’s death.
Danielle Wilson launched civil proceedings against the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Wright’s company Helibrook over her husband Chris Wilson’s death. Credit: Supplied

The widow of Netflix star Chris Wilson has moved to freeze Outback Wrangler Matt Wright’s assets and sue him personally over the fatal Northern Territory chopper crash that killed her husband.

In December, Danielle Wilson launched civil proceedings against the Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Wright’s company Helibrook over her husband’s death during a crocodile egg collecting mission at West Arnhem Land in February 2022.

The destroyed Robinson R44 Raven II, registered VH-IDW, was owned by Helibrook and operating under a CASA authorisation – which allowed the company to sling a person beneath their piston engine powered helicopters for the purpose of crocodile egg collecting – at the time it crashed.

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Ms Wilson claims both defendants were negligent and breached their duty of care in allowing her husband to be slung beneath a piston engine powered chopper, contrary to safer new flight rules, to collect crocodile eggs the day he was killed.

Following the crash Ms Wilson engaged Salerno Law managing partner Cliff Savala, who briefed barrister David Lloyd SC and Matthew Kalyk from 12 Wentworth Selborne, to sue Helibrook and CASA.

A helicopter crash that involved Matt Wright and his co-star Chris 'Willow' Wilson
The crashed helicopter. Credit: CareFlight/CareFlight

At a directions hearing in the Federal Court in Sydney on Thursday, Mr Lloyd revealed he has filed an interlocutory application seeking to join “Mr Matt Wright, who is the controlling mind of Helibrook, to the proceedings as the third respondent”.

He said this would be “effectively asserting what is, in substance, the same cause of action in negligence as is asserted against his company Helibrook”.

“Because there is a concern that if Helibrook is not insured that ultimately, when it comes to enforcement, if we succeed, we may not be able to enforce against Helibrook,” he said.

Ms Wilson is also seeking an order freezing the assets of Mr Wright and his wife Kaia who run multiple tourism operations in the NT.

Mr Wright and his wife Kaia run multiple tourism operations in the NT.
Mr Wright and his wife Kaia run multiple tourism operations in the NT. Credit: Instagram

The court heard that in correspondence between the parties, Mr Wright had asserted “there was no need for a freezing order” because he was covered by the insurance policy.

“And if that is so, that might be a very good contention to the freezing order and we may not need to pursue it,” Mr Lloyd said.

“We had hoped we might be able to get to a position where there would be an undertaking by Mr Wright and his wife about not transferring or disposing of assets from now forward which, if given, would remove any urgency from the interlocutory application.”

Mr Lloyd said he understood that Helibrook’s insurance policy might cover the statutory cause of action, but not the common law negligence cause of action against Helibrook.

He asked for the application to be stood over until early next week to allow Mr Wright’s lawyers to determine their client’s position and put on any evidence and submissions in response.

Sebastian Robinson with Chris Wilson
Sebastian Robinson with Chris Wilson. Credit: Supplied/TheWest

Mr Wright has previously said that Helibrook’s insurer QBE – represented by Carter Newell Lawyers – would be “conducting the defence to the claim”.

Tom Brennan SC, who appeared for Helibrook, said the insurer “now needs to consider its position”.

“It might be, ultimately, the insurer is entitled to decline indemnity for the negligence claim but is on the hook for the liability under the civil aviation carriers liability claim,” he said.

“How all that plays out, I think, sensibly the insurer now needs to consider its position and to make clear to Helibrook what its position is, if that is to decline liability.

“Then Your Honor won’t be seeing me in this capacity again.”

Mr Brennan, from Thirteen Wentworth Chambers, asked for time to allow the insurer to consider its position and “make that clear to Helibrook”.

Local Court
Ms Wilson is seeking an order freezing the assets of Mr Wright and his wife Kaia. Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Brennan said that if Mr Wright was joined to the proceedings, the celebrity croc-wrangler “may then make a claim for indemnity”.

“That may raise further and separate issues for the insurer from those that arise with Helibrook. Not least that Helibrook is insured and Mr Wright is not.”

Solicitor Amanda Bond from Gillis Delaney Lawyers, who appeared for Mr Wright, confirmed her client had made an insurance claim on the policy “and a response is being awaited as we speak”.

Solicitor Elle Belekas from MinterEllison, appearing for CASA, agreed to the proposed adjournment to allow the applicant an opportunity to join Mr Wright as a respondent.

Justice Elizabeth Raper suggested urgent mediation but instead the matter was relisted for case management on February 20.

Wilson, who also left behind the couple’s two young sons, would have turned 36 today.

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