Outback Wrangler Matt Wright and his model wife Kaia have put their TV show and business empire on ice, with the reality TV star facing up to 15 years in jail after the death of co-star Chris ‘Willow’ Wilson.
Wright has shelved his Netflix show Wild Territory after selling off his fleet of helicopters in the wake of the devastating tragedy in February 2022.
Close friends have revealed the TV star has stepped away from his string of TV, travel and tourism interests to focus on his family and the court case instead.
Wright and his wife built an idyllic life in the Top End on the back of their hit show – but his future now hangs in the balance as he faces a string of charges in court this week.
Outback Wrangler Matt Wright and his model wife Kaia have put their TV show and business empire on ice as the reality TV star faces up to 15 years in jail
Chris ‘Willow’ Wilson (pictured) was a fearless crocodile egg collector, hanging precariously under the chopper on a 30m-long thread of rope to pluck eggs from crocodile nests
Seb Robinson (pictured) was just 28 but already had 2,500 hours of flying time under his belt and was a beloved bush pilot, renowned for his infectious laugh and love of the land
An air crash investigation last week found egg collector Wilson plunged to his death when helicopter pilot Seb Robinson unhooked his vital lifeline as he dangled in mid-air above croc-infested swamps,
Wilson fell almost three storeys and died instantly after he was cut free by Mr Robinson as the pilot fought for control of the chopper as it spiralled to the ground.
Mr Robinson suffered life-changing spinal injuries in the crash, spending months in hospital, and is now a paraplegic.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau found the helicopter had run out of fuel after it was ‘likely’ it had not been refuelled during a stopover minutes before the tragedy.
Investigators had also found traces of cocaine use in the pilot’s blood and that he had partied into the early hours of the morning the day before the accident.
Wright – who operated the Robinson R44 helicopter involved in the crash – will face court on Thursday on charges relating to the investigation after the crash, but not the crash itself.
He’s accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice, destroying evidence, fabricating evidence, unlawfully entering a building, unlawfully entering a dwelling, making a false declaration and interfering with witnesses in a criminal investigation or court process by making threats/reprisals.
The blockbuster court case is set to decide the one-time TV tycoon’s future – but he has privately told friends that regardless of what happens, his first priority will now be his family.
The stress of the crash and the subsequent investigations has taken a bruising toll on the couple and their two young children, friends told Daily Mail Australia.
Wright is said to be keen to try heal that damage in any way he can – including the potential end for both the Outback Wrangler or Wild Territory series.
Production has already been abandoned for any future shows, and although a return has not yet been completely ruled out in the long-term, there are currently no plans.
The sale of Wright’s helicopter fleet, used by his company Helibrook, may have delivered a final death blow for both the TV show and much of his travel, tourism and hospitality ventures.
Wright and his wife operated a series of resorts, holiday homes and adventure tours which promised guests a taste of the outback thrills viewers see in his shows.
But without the fleet of helicopters, a vital key ingredient has now been lost.
Friends still insist he’s still just as passionate about working with crocodiles and promoting the Northern Territory, despite the tragedy and backlash over Wilson’s death.
He’s also keen to try to reverse the way the NT tourism industry has been hammered by the recent violent crime wave which hit the territory recently.
‘Matt thinks there is a lot of work to do to help restore the image of the NT, and he will consider how his profile can help with that,’ one close friend told Daily Mail Australia.
Wright cultivated the image of the fearless crocodile whisperer and carved out an international TV career showcasing Australia’s wildlife.
Wife Kaia was the glamorous mother-of-two social media influencer who combined croc wrestling with beauty tips – and has her own 5.5-metre pet crocodile called Tripod.
Outback Wrangler Matt Wright and his model wife Kaia have built an idyllic life in the Top End on the back of the hit show’s success – but it all now hangs in the balance
Kaia Wright is the glamorous mother-of-two social media influencer who combines croc wrestling with beauty tips – and has her own 5.5-metre pet crocodile called Tripod
They have a sprawling home in the remote NT outback which they shared with 15 rescue crocs, three pigs – Pepsi, Truffle and Cola – two dingoes, Ernie and Albie, seven snakes and a collection of green tree frogs.
That quiet life of family and a return to nature is now their main focus ahead of the upcoming trial.
Wright, 44, faced a nine-month police and air crash investigation into the February 28 accident on the croc-infested King River swamps on West Arnhem land, 500km east of Darwin.
But his towering 183cm-tall wife Kaia, 34, never left Wright’s side throughout the ordeal, after they first met in fairytale fashion nine years ago.
Kaia was sipping champagne on a boat off Western Australia’s Rottnest Island in 2014 as she rued her shocking love life to some close friends.
‘I’ll just hope an angel will fall from the sky,’ she told them.
And then fate stepped in.
‘Randomly, this chopper just flew in and landed in front of us,’ she later told Stellar magazine about that first meeting with her future husband.
‘He was all booted up. He changed into some shorts and jumped out.’
Kaia and Matt Wright (pictured with son Banjo, 5) first met when the TV star suddenly landed his helicopter near her while she was with friends on a boat off Rottnest Island in 2014
Kaia Wright’s Instagram is a unique combination of outback wildlife and beauty products
They exchanged numbers on the first date – she put his next to ‘Big Kid’, he put hers next to ‘Legend’ – and a whirlwind romance followed.
They got engaged in 2016 and married in 2017.
Kaia had grown up in WA’s Kimberley region where her parents worked in community development in Broome and Derby before she attended high school in Perth.
She studied journalism at university in Sydney – and later wrote best-selling books about her husband’s life – before moving into advertising.
She now combines her family role with TV demands and a burgeoning social media following which is closing in on 100,000 people who are kept updated on her thrilling and glamorous life in the outback.
Her Instagram account is a unique combination of outback wildlife and beauty products, leaping from one subject to the other in every other picture.
Kaia Wright’s followers on social media are constantly updated on her thrilling and glamorous life in the outback
It details her outback life, wrestling crocs one moment, then extolling the latest hair care product the next as a brand ambassador.
Its popularity soared on the back of Wright’s National Geographic adventure show which ran for 10 years.
The series is shown in 100 countries where Wright’s daredevil exploits have made him a household name for many.
Its success sparked a multi-million dollar deal with Netflix for the first 10-episode season of his new show, Wild Croc Territory, with a second season now on ice.
The new production saw Wright combine his onscreen adventures with a lucrative off-screen executive producer role, alongside his wife’s agent Nick Fordham, brother of 2GB’s Ben Fordham.
They also run Top End Safari Camp, 120km south of Darwin, a luxury $895 a night glamping experience in ritzy tents to give tourists a taste of Wright’s outback life.
The Wrights also run Top End Safari Camp, 120km south of Darwin, a luxury $895 a night glamping experience in ritzy tents to give tourists a taste of Wright’s outback life
Wright’s Outback Wrangler show on National Geographic has been running for 10 years and is shown in 100 countries
The couple are also building a lavish new luxury designer-home in Darwin which was revealed in an artist’s impression (pictured) posted on social media by their architect
The couple have also been building a lavish new luxury designer-home in Darwin.
‘For us it’s pretty interesting living between so many different worlds,’ she told Escape magazine last year.
‘We’ll have to go to events and do the whole city thing, but it makes you appreciate so much more what you have up here.’
But as police moved in to start making arrests over the deadly February 28 crash, the Wrights left their wilderness paradise home to relocate to Queensland’s Gold Coast.
Wright’s co-accused Neil Mellon, an off duty NT Police sergeant, is accused of flying to the crash scene with Wright shortly after the accident.
He was arrested on August 25, 2022, and faces 31 charges relating to the crash.
On September 20, 2022, Wright’s chief helicopter pilot Michael Burbridge – who was first on the scene of the accident – was also charged in connection with the crash.
Nine months to the day after the deadly crash, on November 28, 2022, a warrant was issued for Wright’s own arrest over the tragedy.
Kaia Wright was pregnant through throughout the investigation and had just given birth to their daughter, Dusty Faith, a sister for their five year old son, Banjo, when Wright was charged last year.
Now that family is Wright’s primary concern for the future. Recent social media posts reveal the family relaxing in remote waterholes and enjoying time together.
The court dates – down for hearings on this Thursday and Friday – are likely to set the scene for a trial in 2024 – which could take any further decisions on Wright’s future out of his hands if he is convicted.