The son of a beef tycoon killed in one of Australia’s worst-ever aviation disasters has revealed the tragic timing in his dad’s death.
Experts are desperately seeking answers after a helicopter crashed in Victoria on Thursday morning, claiming the lives of all five on board, in what has been described as one of Australia’s worst-ever aviation disasters.
The pilot and four passengers were killed when the aircraft – which took off from Batman Park in central Melbourne – went down at Mt Disappointment, north of the city, after 9am.
One of the victims has been identified as Paul Troja, the chairman of Radfords Warragul – an abattoir and meat processing plant. The 73-year-old has been described as a “stalwart” in Victoria’s meat industry.
Speaking to 9News, the victim’s son revealed the tragic timing of Mr Troja’s death. Not only was he planning on taking a step back from work, the father-of-four had welcomed his fifth grandchild just two days before his death.
“He wanted to spend more time with the family, but he wanted to do one last job to get a bit more money behind him, so he could help us out,” said Luke Troja.
“This was going to be it, and he was going to give it away.”
Among the other victims were the pilot – a 32-year-old man from Cheltenham – as well as a 50-year-old woman from Inverloch, a 59-year-old man and 70-year-old man from NSW.
The four passengers were all meat farmers who were heading north to Ulupna near the Victorian-NSW border as part of a business trip to purchase cattle, however Mr Troja was the only representative from Radfords.
‘Stalwart in the global meat industry’
Since his passing, Radfords have released a statement on the “tragic loss” of the company’s chairman.
Mr Troja had worked in multiple roles within the Australian meat industry, including positions at Riverstone Meat, Rockdale Beef Pty Ltd and Felix Domus Pty Ltd.
“Paul, a stalwart in the global meat industry, has consulted to our business for over five years and became the inaugural chairman of our board when it was formed in 2019,” the statement said.
“He has served our company with distinction during this time, is a close friend of our owner Robert Radford and a respected member of our leadership team.”
They said Mr Troja was integral in helping the company expand into international markets and achieve its Tier 1 export licence.
“Our condolences are with his wife, Ann, children, grandchildren and members of his extended family, who were treasured by him, and friends at this time and with the family and friends of the other people involved in this accident.”
Low-lying clouds may have played a part
According to Sunrise, the doomed chopper was travelling as part of a convoy, with the second aircraft landing safely at Moorabbin.
First responders were hampered by the rugged terrain of the crash site, with the wreckage found two hours after the helicopter disappeared.
The forest is so dense that bulldozers were needed to get access to the site near Blair’s Hut at around 3.45pm on Thursday afternoon.
Experts were then winched down to the scene of the crash to retrieve and identify the victims.
Aviation experts visited the site at first light Friday morning in an attempt to discover what went wrong, although it is expected to be a lengthy process which could take months to determine.
According to Sunrise, one theory being pursued is whether low-lying clouds played a role.
“The helicopter’s been destroyed and unfortunately there were no survivors,” Acting Inspector Josh Langelaan told the media on Thursday night.
The crash is the worst aircraft catastrophe since a charter plane crashed into the Essendon DFO shopping mall in February 2017, claiming five lives.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will take over the investigation today, and will send in teams from both Melbourne and Canberra.