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Charges over Antarctica fatality (Media release)

1 March 2024 - update

The Department was initially found guilty of two of the three charges in 2020 and later acquitted on appeal. Helicopter Resources was acquitted of all charges, with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) appealing against both outcomes. The ACT Court of Appeal dismissed the CDPP’s appeals on 1 March 2024, ruling the earlier acquittal of the Department and Helicopter Resources be upheld.

21 December 2017

The Department of the Environment and Energy and a helicopter contractor have been charged with breaching federal work health and safety laws in relation to a fatality in Antarctica.

Helicopter pilot David Wood, a 62-year-old dual Canadian and Australian citizen, was delivering fuel drums to a remote depot on Antarctica’s West Ice Shelf when he fell down a crevasse on 11 January 2016. He was recovered by a rescue team but died from hypothermia at Davis Station the following day.

The prosecution follows an investigation by federal work health and safety regulator Comcare.

The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions has filed three charges in the ACT Magistrates Court alleging the Department, through its Australian Antarctic Division, failed in its duties under the federal Work Health and Safety Act.

Three charges have also been filed against Captain Wood’s employer Helicopter Resources Pty Ltd, contracted by the Department to support field operations for the Antarctic Division.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $1.5 million.

The matter is listed for mention in the ACT Magistrates Court on 22 February 2018.

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Page last reviewed: 15 December 2019

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Date printed 19 May 2024