Pilot warns ‘someone is going to die’ before crash

Kat Wong and Tess Ikonomou |

Captain Danniel Lyon thought the safety of his crew was not being prioritised by the ADF.
Captain Danniel Lyon thought the safety of his crew was not being prioritised by the ADF.

An army pilot who was killed in a Taipan chopper crash raised safety concerns about the aircraft, warning “someone is going to die from this one day”.

Months later, Captain Danniel Lyon was killed alongside Lieutenant Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock and Corporal Alexander Naggs when their MRH-90 Taipan plunged into the sea off the Queensland coast.

The helicopter, given the call sign Bushman 83, had been flying in formation with three others for Lindeman Island as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre in July 2023.

The four crew killed in an army Taipan MRH-90 helicopter crash
Alex Naggs (top L), Maxwell Nugent (top R), Joseph Laycock (bottom L), Danniel Lyon (bottom R). (HANDOUT/DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE)

His wife Caitland Lyon remembers the terrible moment Defence representatives arrived at her door.

“In my mind, it had to be a prank … there was no way in my mind that this could actually be happening,” she told an inquiry into the crash on Wednesday.

When she eventually let them in, they told her the father of their two children was missing, even though they knew there had been a catastrophic impact.

“It would have been easier to be told that the crew was dead … far less cruel than having us hoping and praying for a miracle that wasn’t going to happen,” she said.

A file photo of Caitland Lyon
Danniel Lyon’s wife Caitland described the moment Defence representatives arrived at her door. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Before the tragedy, Capt Lyon had attended a meeting with Defence to discuss an incident at Jervis Bay on NSW’s south coast, where an MRH-90 ditched into the sea after an engine failure in March 2023.

He did not feel the issue had been rectified and adequate measures had been put in place to prevent a similar incident happening.

“Someone is going to die from this one day,” Capt Lyon told the meeting.

Ms Lyon recalled he “definitely didn’t feel like he was being heard or that the safety of his crew was being prioritised”.

The Taipans were retired two months after the fatal disaster in July, their service already tarnished with fleet-wide groundings.

Ms Lyon questioned the decision to dissemble and bury the Taipans, saying she could not understand why they were being destroyed when they could be “prime pieces of evidence” for the investigation into the crash.

Australian Army MRH-90 Taipans
The Taipans were retired in the months following the crash and previous fleet-wide groundings. (AP PHOTO)

“I don’t know what possible reason there could be for such drastic and urgent action by defence,” she said.

After being told she would never get the chance to hear the black box recording, Ms Lyon said she hoped that would change.

The inquiry was told she requested the support of a social worker to help tell her then five-year-old son his father was dead, but the assistance never arrived.

The social worker had tried calling the mobile number of her dead husband instead of hers.

“I found it really atrocious,” Ms Lyon said.

She said an army chaplain who had gone to her home told her to think of her future husband and future children in response to her suggestion her husband’s funeral be held on Father’s Day.

She said she was told her husband was not entitled to a military grave as he did not die in war.

The inquiry continues.

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