Frantic search for pilot in ocean
A HELICOPTER carrying two people has crashed into the ocean off the coast of Western Australia with one survivor found and the pilot still missing.
The helicopter was on its way to the bulk carrier MV Squireship to collect a marine pilot and return them to the harbour when it ditched, about 35km north of Port Hedland.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) spokeswoman Lauren Smith said the marine pilot on board the ship saw the crash and alerted authorities just before midnight local time.
"The helicopter at the time was on its way out to the bulk carrier MV Squireship to collect a marine pilot," she said.
"The marine pilot on board the ship at the time witnessed the helicopter ditch into the water and immediately notified harbour control."
AMSA detected a distress beacon from one of the helicopter's crew members soon after, according to Ms Smith.
Four flares were also seen in the search area shortly after the crash.
Around 1am, a pilot vessel picked up one of the helicopter's surviving crew members who was injured but safe in a crew liferaft. He was taken to Port Hedland Hospital.
The helicopter pilot is still missing.
The AMSA was this morning leading a search and rescue operation with seven aircraft, including the Perth Challenger jet and seven vessels including four tugboats.
WA Police, Volunteer Marine Rescue Port Hedland, Port Hedland Harbour Master and Vessel Traffic Services, and the helicopter pilot company are assisting, according to the AMSA.
A team of Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigators will travel to the site later on Thursday.