A hero helicopter pilot who helped save countless homes during Sydney’s wild weekend bushfire has crashed in a remote area of Kosciuszko National Park.
Phil O’Driscoll’s helicopter crashed near Cabramurra on Tuesday afternoon, initially catching fire before the flames were extinguished.
The 45-year-old pilot has been taken to Canberra Hospital in a stable condition with head and spinal injuries.
Another fiery smash in Canada in 2005 left Mr O’Driscoll with severe burn scars on his face.
The UH-1H helicopter that came down on Tuesday is operated by O’Driscoll Aviation, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority database confirmed.
It’s used for heavy lifting and also water-bombing operations. It fought the Holsworthy blaze that started on Saturday afternoon and has now burnt through almost 3300 hectares of Sydney bushland.
A Rural Fire Service spokesman confirmed the helicopter had helped fight the bushfire but said Mr O’Driscoll was working on a private job on Tuesday.
The pilot was working on the Snowy 2.0 project when he crashed, spokeswoman Stephanie McKew confirmed.
“While he was injured, he was conscious certainly on the scene and able to get away from the helicopter,” she told the Seven Network.
Mr O’Driscoll was the sole occupant of the helicopter – built in 1965 – and had to be winched from the difficult terrain.
The pilot, who has decades of experience, recently shared a video on Facebook of his firefighting runs for the RFS in the Riverina region on April 12.
AAP understands the helicopter also tackled the massive bushfire at Tathra in mid-March which destroyed 100 properties.
Mr O’Driscoll narrowly escaped death in 2005 after his helicopter smashed into a cliff in the Canadian wilderness as he tried to avoid hitting people, News Corp Australia reported in 2010.
The UH-1H helicopter was donated to the pilot by a Northern Territory family eight years ago to help him get back on his feet.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will send a team from Canberra to investigate Tuesday’s crash.