A newlywed couple were among the four people killed when two helicopters crashed in mid-air near Sea World on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Visitors at Sea World were having a good time when they heard “a massive, massive bang” and they realised two Sea World helicopters had crashed into each other.
Holiday visitors and people enjoying the water rushed to help the injured as debris covered an area that police said was difficult to access.
Ron Hughes, 65, and wife Diane, 57, from Merseyside in England, were in one of the helicopters and died in the crash. They only married in 2021.
The 40-year-old pilot, Ash Jenkinson, who reportedly grew up in the West Midlands, was named as the third British victim. He had worked as a chief pilot at Sea World Helicopters since 2019.
Friends praised his mentorship and the assistance he provided during catastrophic floods in the New South Wales town of Ballina last year. The Gold Coast Bulletin reported he became a father in 2022.
The fourth person killed in the crash on Monday, Jan. 2, is Vanessa Tadros, 36, a mum from the Sydney suburb of Glenmore Park.
Three other passengers remain in hospital, including a 10-year-old boy, also from Glenmore Park, who is in a critical condition.
Their helicopter had been in the air for less than 20 seconds when it collided with another Sea World Helicopter attempting to land.
The pilot of the second aircraft managed to land safely on a sandy outcrop despite it being damaged in the smash.
The passengers onboard the second aircraft included two couples in their 40s from New Zealand and a 27-year-old woman from Western Australia.
The forensic crash unit is investigating the incident with help from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).
ATSB chief commissioner Angus Mitchell said it was a “remarkable achievement” there were not more deaths.
He said: “The second helicopter coming in to land has remarkably managed to land upright, and considering the damage that was done to the front left-hand section of that helicopter where the pilot was sitting, that’s a remarkable achievement.
“Whilst it has been very tragic that four people have lost their lives and many families are in mourning, we could have had a far worse situation here and the fact that one helicopter managed to land has been quite remarkable.”
Australia’s Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, said his thoughts were with those affected by the incident.
“Australia is shocked by the news of the terrible and tragic helicopter incident today on the Gold Coast,” he said in a tweet.
“My thoughts are with all those affected, including first responders, and my deepest sympathies are with those who are grieving.”