St George Hunters and Anglers Association (STGHAA) presidentRobert Davis, 68, died when he plunged 30m from a rescue helicopter inVictoria.
Mr Davis broke his ankle during a deer hunt around LakeEildon in Victoria’s north east on Saturday morning and called in help.
Reports say he was being winched with a paramedic into arescue helicopter, but fell as he reached the doorway.
The 68-year-old, who had lived in the Sutherland Shire suburbRiverwood, died from injuries he suffered in the fall.
The incident has rocked the Sydney hunting community withSTGHAA secretary, Peter Snelling, paying tribute to the popular hunting figure.
“There is absolutely nothing I can say that will make thissad event any easier to bear other than that Bob went out doing one of thethings he loved – hunting,” he said.
Mr Davis was also one of the longest serving members ofGameCon, a body that represents the interests of hunters.
“Normally when the cavalry gets there you expect to getrescued, not trampled by the horses as they come in. That’s the analogy thatwas put to me yesterday,” said NSW president of the Australian DeerAssociation John Mumford, who had known Mr Davis for 15 years.
“Bob was a very keen advocate for hunters, a very keenhunter and fisherman and an absolute gem of a bloke, a larger-than-life sort ofcharacter. It would be very hard to find someone who had a bad word to sayabout him. He was just one of those people that everybody liked.”
Mr Mumford said in a report in the Sydney Morning Heraldthat Mr Davis, a married father of two, was the president of the St GeorgeHunters and Anglers Association and was passionate about the sports of huntingand fishing.
“As long as he was out hunting he was a very happylad,” he said.
“The bottom line is that he was a brilliant bloke, anabsolute gentleman and it’s a really, really big loss.”
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau, Ambulance Victoriaand WorkSafe Victoria have all launched separate investigations into theincident.
The newspaper report said Mr Davis was believed to have beenon an organised hunting trip with a local guide, and his son may have been withhim at the time of the fall.
Mr Davis, who friends estimated stood at more than 185centimetres tall, was thought to have weighed about 120 kilograms, andAmbulance Employees Australia secretary Steve McGhie said the victim’s weightwould be taken into account during the investigations.
Weather conditions and the possibility of faulty equipmentwould also be examined.
“Unfortunately, it is a freakish incident that has endedtragically,” he said.
“We need to find out what went wrong so it can be preventedfrom happening again.”
Mr McGhie said winch rescues were commonplace and he had notreceived any concerns from paramedics about winching procedures or equipment.
He added that the attending paramedics and air crew were“devastated” by the accident and would undergo counselling.
Mr Mumford said he had been hunting for Sambar deer in thesame area where Mr Davis died, and it was “not difficult country by anystretch of the imagination”.
“There are areas where you get pretty rugged bush andsteep hills and then you get flat clearings. That area there is probably amoderate sort of area, where it’s fairly easy to hunt, but it doesn’t take muchto break an ankle,” he said.
“There are a number of groups in that area of Victoriathat do guided hunts. Samba deer, which they would have been chasing, are avery difficult animal to chase.
“We only get one or two weekends down there a year. Itcuts a lot of walking time out to get a local to show you where they are.”
An Australian Transport Safety Bureau spokesman said four ofits investigators from Canberra and Brisbane arrived at the site on Sundaymorning and had interviewed the helicopter’s crew and examined the harness andhelicopter.
He said the cause of the fall was not yet known.
Ambulance Victoria CEO Greg Sassella said the victim was nearthe helicopter when he fell.
“The person was being winched into the helicopter by aparamedic and close to, or at the helicopter, he fell to his death,” MrSassella said.
The paramedic was immediately lowered back to the ground tohelp Mr Davis, however he died at the scene.
Mr Sassella said Saturday’s accident was the first of itskind in Victoria, and that everyone involved in the tragedy – including thepilot, crewman and paramedic – was devastated and had been offered counselling.
“This is tragic, they spend their whole lives riskingtheir lives to help people, they were trying to help this person and do theirbest and something has gone astray and that’s distressing to the crew and ofcourse to the family,” he said.
Winching operations carried out by five helicopters acrossVictoria were suspended immediately following Mr Davis’ death, although threeof those helicopters have since been cleared to continue.
A decision about the remaining two helicopters could be madeas early as Monday afternoon.