A helicopter pilot was lucky to escape injury when an inappropriately stowed jerry can caused his Robinson R22 to crash and flip during a cattle muster in Western Australia's far north.
Before the man began mustering on a property near Fitzroy Crossing on March 22, he had refuelled the helicopter from a jerry can and then secured the empty can in the passenger seat using the seatbelt.
He was climbing out of a descending turn to the rear of a mob of cattle and was only three metres above the ground when a gust of wind blew through the left door opening and dislodged the jerry can.
It became wedged between the seat and the cyclic stick, which looks like a joystick and changes the pitch angle of the rotor blades.
Despite the pilot's efforts to regain control of the helicopter, it crashed, with the main rotor blades chopping through the tail boom.
The helicopter flipped forward and bounced back up to about 15m above the ground before landing upside down.
The impact dislodged the top of the front dashboard and struck the pilot's helmet, but he escaped injury.
The helicopter was substantially damaged.
"This incident highlights the importance of ensuring all items are securely stowed," the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said.
"It also provides a timely reminder to pilots of the benefits of safety equipment such as a helmet."