Sandi Mellon charged after husband Neil Mellon arrested for alleged part in Outback Wrangler crash


FEBRUARY 28, 2022

7:03am Pilot Seb Robinson and egg collector Chris ‘Willow’ Wilson are on one of three Robinson R44 helicopters which set off from Noonamah on a crocodile egg collection operation on West Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, about 500km from Darwin. Each chopper has one pilot and one egg collector. They fly for 90 minutes to a drum refuelling site in the bush near Mount Borradaile.

8.30am Choppers fly from drum refuelling area to the King River staging area, 20 minutes away. Mr Wilson allegedly shares a picture of the fuel gauge showing it was almost full to their shared WhatsApp group.

Around 9am Choppers split up to go to their various egg collection areas. Two head 12km north-east and collected eggs from nine nests between 0911 and 1014.

10.14am The other two crews realise they’ve not heard from Robinson and Wilson and chief helicopter pilot – and director of Remote Helicopters Australia – Michael Burbridge, 44, goes to look for them.

10.36am It finds the wreckage of their helicopter, 30km south of South Goulburn Island. Mr Wilson, 34, is dead 40m from the wreckage and Mr Robinson, 28, is seriously hurt with spinal injuries on the ground next to the aircraft. Their chopper has collided with trees and terrain. The second chopper briefly takes off again to make radio contact and raise the alarm.

Outback Wrangler Matt Wright allegedly flies to the crash scene with off-duty police sergeant Neil Mellon and Darwin publican and crocodile farmer Mick Burns. Mr Burns has not been charged with any offences.

12.30pm A CareFlight helicopter arrives at the scene and airlifts the pilot to Maningrida, where he was transferred by plane to Darwin. 

APRIL 19, 2022: The Air Transport Safety Bureau release their initial findings into the crash, with the full report expected in the first quarter of 2023. It finds the helicopter’s engine stopped prior to impacting the ground. Just 250ml of fuel was in the fuel bladders which were both intact, but the report notes fuel may have drained into a nearby creek as the fuel system was damaged in the crash. There were no other obvious signs of mechanical failure and no fire at the scene. 

AUGUST 25, 2022: Father of three Neil Mellon, 47, is arrested shortly after he arrives for work at Darwin police station. Police raid his home and allegedly find illegal wildlife, fireworks and firearms.

AUGUST 26, 2022: Mellon is charged with 31 offences, including attempting to pervert the course of justice and stealing and unlawfully accessing data. His charges also relate to weapons, firearms and wildlife offences, as well as alleged destruction of evidence in relation to a major crash investigation.

Later the same day, his wife Sandi, also a serving NT police officer, posts accusations on Facebook, unrelated to the crash, about a former close female friend which were later deleted.

Mellon is understood to have since resigned from the police after 27 years’ service. 

SEPTEMBER, 2022: Outback Wrangler and father of four Matt Wright, 43, relocates with his pregnant wife Kaia from Darwin to the Gold Coast in Queensland. 

SEPTEMBER 20, 2022: Helicopter pilot Michael Burbridge – who was first on the scene of the tragedy – is charged in connection with the crash. He is accused of destroying evidence, conspiracy and attempting to pervert the course of justice, and providing a false statement.

NOVEMBER 28, 2022: NT Police issue an arrest warrant for Wright and he’s told to present himself at Darwin police station within 48 hours to face at least six serious charges concerning the crash. They relate to his actions before and after the crash and allege he tampered with evidence.

NOVEMBER 29, 2022: Wright checks in for an 8.15am flight from Sydney to Darwin with his wife and their newborn daughter Dusty. He is charged in the afternoon with a string of offences in relation to the chopper crash.

NOVEMBER 30, 2022: Wright appears at Darwin Court on seven charges relating to the crash which he strenuously denies and is granted bail until the next court appearance on January 25, 2023. 

Wright is charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice, 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.

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