Outback Wrangler Matt Wright comes face to face with Chris Wilson’s widow Danielle in court for the first time

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Kristin Shorten
The Nightly
4 Min Read
She's suing the presenter for damages over her husband's death.

The widow of Netflix star Chris Wilson has come face-to-face with their former friend, Outback Wrangler host Matt Wright, in the Federal Court.

Danielle Wilson is suing the celebrity croc-wrangler, his aviation company Helibrook Pty Ltd and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority over her husband’s death during a crocodile egg-collecting mission at West Arnhem Land in February 2022.

Ms Wilson was silent as she arrived at the Federal Court building in Sydney on Thursday morning, flanked by her legal team, for a day of court-ordered mediation.

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Wright made a brief comment to the media as he walked towards the Federal Court building with his lawyer David Newey from Gillis Delaney in Sydney.

“It’s not gonna bring our mate back, is it?” he said to the press pack.

Wilson – who starred alongside Wright in reality television shows including Outback Wrangler and Wild Croc Territory — was slinging beneath the helicopter when it crashed soon after taking off from a clearing on the King River.

The destroyed Robinson R44 Raven II, registered VH-IDW, was owned and operated by Wright’s company Helibrook.

It was being flown by Wright’s employee Sebastian Robinson.

The 31-year-old pilot, who is now paraplegic, is not a party to the civil proceedings.

The egg-collecting operation was being conducted under CASA authorisation, which allowed Helibrook to sling a person beneath its piston engine-powered helicopters for the purpose of crocodile egg collecting, at the time it crashed.

The crashed helicopter.
The crashed helicopter. Credit: CareFlight

Ms Wilson claims CASA, Helibrook and Wright breached their duty of care in allowing her husband to be slung beneath a piston engine-powered chopper to collect crocodile eggs the day he was killed.

The 34-year-old is being represented by Salerno Law managing partner Cliff Savala, who has briefed one of the country’s top aviation barristers David Lloyd SC and experienced junior counsel Matthew Kalyk from Sydney’s 12 Wentworth Selborne Chambers.

Ms Wilson’s legal team on Thursday night said their client’s disputes had not been resolved.

“The mediation remains a live and ongoing process,” Mr Savala said.

“It would therefore be inappropriate for Ms Wilson to comment at this time.”

Outback Wrangler Matt Wright and pilot Michael Burbidge were charged in relation to the investigation into the fatal Northern Territory chopper crash that killed Chris Wilson in February 2022.
Outback Wrangler Matt Wright. Credit: Unknown/Facebook

In November, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau released its final report on the fatal accident, finding that the helicopter “likely” collided with terrain on the morning of February 28, 2022, due to fuel exhaustion.

However, ATSB findings are inadmissible in civil and criminal proceedings.

At a case management hearing last week, CASA’s lawyer Thomas Miller – from multinational law firm MinterEllison – said his client was willing to attend mediation and “attempt to resolve as many of the disputes as possible” but was “not likely to be able to make monetary offers of settlement” until it had obtained expert evidence.

“There is a novel duty of care alleged against CASA as regulator, that it should have taken different actions as regulator, both in relation to the legislative instruments that are passed, in relation to its surveillance activities,” he said.

“There is a helicopter which has crashed, and there are unclear circumstances as to why it crashed.”

Chris ‘Willow’ Wilson with wife Danielle.
Chris ‘Willow’ Wilson with wife Danielle. Credit: Supplied

Justice Elizabeth Raper insisted that mediation at an early stage of the proceedings would be beneficial despite it being “imperfect in terms of you don’t have all the evidence”.

Ms Wilson – now a single mother of the couple’s two young sons – is claiming damages, interest, costs, interest on costs and “such other order as the court sees fit”.

“As a result of this conduct, the applicant suffered nervous shock or psychiatric harm and loss of maintenance and financial support of Mr Wilson during the course of his lifetime,” the claim states.

None of the respondents have filed a defence.

The next case management hearing is scheduled for June 27.

Meanwhile, one of Wright’s criminal charges — attempting to pervert the course of justice — was briefly mentioned in the Northern Territory Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon and relisted for a criminal call-over on August 1, where a trial date or a further hearing could be set.

He is due back in the Darwin Local Court on June 18 to deal with six other charges he is facing including destroying evidence, fabricating evidence, unlawfully entering a building, unlawfully entering a dwelling, making a false declaration and interfering with witnesses in a criminal investigation or court process by making threats/reprisals.

NT WorkSafe has also charged Wright and Helibrook with “reckless conduct for operating unsafe aircraft” following the fatal chopper crash. Those matters will return to the Darwin Local Court on July 15.

Former NT police officer Neil Mellon, who pleaded guilty to destroying Wilson’s mobile phone after his death, will be sentenced on July 9.

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