Outback Wrangler Matt Wright has posted heartfelt tribute to mark the first anniversary of his mate’s death – as he prepares to face court over the helicopter crash that killed him.
Chris ‘Willow’ Wilson, 34, was collecting crocodile eggs in a remote area of West Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory when the helicopter he was dangling from collided with trees and plunged to the ground on February 28 last year.
Wright, 43, was later hit with seven criminal charges over Mr Wilson’s death, including destroying evidence and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The reality TV star is yet to enter a plea, but his barrister Greg Jones previously said Wright denies any wrongdoing and intends to fight the charges. His matter will return to Darwin Local Court on March 8.
On Tuesday morning – a week before the matter is due back in court – Wright uploaded a video on Instagram featuring clips of Mr Wilson from their hit Netflix series.
Outback Wrangler is pictured with his wife Kaia. Wright penned a tribute to his mate Chris Wilson on the anniversary of his death
He also penned a powerful post about how his co-star ‘had a sparkle in his eye’ and ‘made the most of life’.
‘One year ago we lost a father, son, brother and mate,’ Wright wrote.
‘Willow lived for adventure, from the very first day I met him he had a sparkle in his eye that would carry him through some of the most amazing experiences across the world.
‘We miss our mate more than anything and his memory will live on through all of us. Willow will go down in the history books as one of Australia’s truest legends. Love ya brother it’s only time and will see each other again.’
The video showed snips of Wright and Mr Wilson sinking beers together, wading through mud, swimming in outback waterholes, and talking about how much he loved working in the NT.
One clip showed Wright, Mr Wilson and other colleagues swimming and drinking XXXX Gold beer at the bottom of a waterfall.
Mr Wilson said: ‘I’ve had one of the best days of my entire life – the only thing that can compete is marrying my wife and having both my sons.’
Matt Wright (centre, with Chris Wilson, right). In a clip posted on Instagram on Tuesday, Mr Wilson held a beer in a swimming hole and said: ”I’ve had one of the best days of my entire life’
Matt Wright wrote a heartfelt tribute to his co-star, Chris Wilson, on the first anniversary of the helicopter crash
On the day of the crash, three choppers set off from Noonamah at around 7am for a crocodile egg collection operation in West Arnhem Land.
After stopping to re-fuel at about 8.30am, the crew flew to a staging area in King River, and at 9am, two of the three helicopters, carrying Mr Burbidge and Ty Richardson, and Jock Purcell and Tim Luck, left to begin collecting eggs 12km away.
The third chopper was carrying Mr Wilson and his pilot Sebastian Robinson, who instead began their operation at a nearby nest.
It was not until just after 10am when the two other crews were having morning tea that they began to wonder about Mr Wilson and Mr Robinson.
Burbidge then returned to look for them alone and found the wreckage of the aircraft and Mr Wilson’s body lying 40m away, while the pilot was critically injured.
Burbidge is then understood to have left the scene to get reception and call for help, before returning to the site of the crash with Mr Richardson, Mr Purcell and Mr Luck.
CareFlight arrived at the crash site at 12.30pm and airlifted Mr Robinson to hospital.
Chris ‘Willow’ Wilson (pictured) died in the crash in west Arnhem Land while collecting crocodile eggs
About 10 minutes later, police officer Neil Mellon, Wright and crocodile farmer Mick Burns arrived at the scene.
The group of seven stayed with Mr Wilson’s body until Careflight returned at 4pm to retrieve it.
They then flew to Mr Wilson’s property to console his wife, who was already surrounded by their own wives.
In the wake of the crash that stunned fans of the National Geographic show, Wright, Mellon and Burbidge were hit with a string of charges.
Mellon is accused of interfering with the scene and was arrested as he arrived for work in August, 2022.
Police allegedly found illegal wildlife, fireworks and firearms during a raid of his home.
Wright was charged over the crash in late November which was followed by a brief hearing at the Darwin Local Court, where he was given bail.
Mr Wilson was collecting crocodile eggs in a remote area of west Arnhem Land when the helicopter he was hanging 30 metres below collided with trees and the ground
His charges include attempting to pervert the course of justice, destroying evidence, fabricating evidence, two counts of unlawful entry, making a false declaration and interfering with witnesses.
Wright has been living on the Gold Coast in Queensland with his wife Kaia and their two young children.
The NT police investigation is expected to be completed by early March.
Wright and other two men charged in relation to the crash are all due to reappear in court on March 8.
Wright became a household name more than a decade ago as the star of National Geographic Channel series Outback Wrangler, which has since been aired in almost 100 countries.