A British newlywed couple died in a horrific helicopter crash with their Birmingham-born pilot near Sea World on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Ron and Diane Hughes, aged 65 and 57 respectively, were two of four people who tragically lost their lives when two helicopters collided mid-air in front of hundreds of horrified tourists on Monday afternoon.
Pilot Ash Jenkinson, 40, who grew up in the West Midlands before moving to Australia and recently became a father, has been named as the third British victim.
The tragedy also claimed the life of Australian mother Vanessa Tadros, 36, who was also fatally injured when the plane plunged more than 300 meters to the ground after the collision.
Ron and Diane Hughes, pictured here on their wedding day, were two of four people killed in the helicopter crash
Australian mother Vanessa Tadros, pictured here, was the fourth person confirmed to have died in the incident
Birmingham-born Ash Jenkinson, pictured here with his family, has been described by heartbroken friends as a ‘top gun’
Workers lift one of the damaged helicopters out of the water after the crash on Australia’s Gold Coast on Monday
A worker attaches a winch to the rotor blades of one of the helicopters on Tuesday morning
Air ambulance members transported a child to hospital after the accident on Monday afternoon
Mr and Mrs Hughes, from Merseyside, married in August 2021 and were on holiday in Australia at the time of the accident.
They are believed to be related to Mrs. Tadros, who had boarded the plane with her son Nicholas.
The 10-year-old was extracted from the wreckage and rushed to hospital with serious injuries, where members of his family, including his father who saw the crash unfold from the ground, remain at his bedside.
Two other people on board – a nine-year-old boy and a 33-year-old woman – were also hospitalized after the helicopter landed upside down on a sandbar.
Of the six occupants of the other helicopter, five suffered minor injuries while one escaped unharmed.
Initial inquiries indicate that the crash happened around 2:00 p.m. (4:00 GMT) as one helicopter was landing and another was taking off.
The pilot of the other helicopter was able to make a controlled landing, despite injuries to those on board after the cockpit was shattered by the collision.
Government investigators are now going through the footage and wreckage of the plane to determine how the pilots did not see each other before the crash.
The incident happened Monday afternoon near Sea World, although the helicopters are operated by a separate company from the station.
Mr Jenkinson was at the controls of a helicopter which had taken tourists for a scenic ride over the scenic coastal region.
The 40-year-old welcomed a son, Kayden, in September 2021 with his wife, Kosha.
A friend of his paid tribute to the pilot, calling him “top dude, top gun and best dad”.
Ritchie Gregg said: “I heard [about the crash] at ten past two. So I sent the message and was waiting for a response.
“When he and Kosha had their son (in September 2021), he was the most excited dad. (Kosha) is very quiet, she is in shock. Kayden… would probably ask where dad is.
He added that “family was his biggest thing” and that he had just married Kosha in October.
Mr Gregg said: “Ash had the biggest heart and was the happiest guy. When he was done flying, he would go straight home to see his boy.
The names of the passengers killed in the crash have yet to be released by police, but Acting Inspector Mike Campbell told reporters the British tourists are ‘we believe husband and wife have a close local relative’ .
The incident happened on Australia’s Gold Coast, near the city of Brisbane, Queensland
Wreckage of two helicopters that crashed near Sea World on Australia’s Gold Coast on Monday
Mr Jenkinson, pictured here with his wife Kosha, was the pilot of one of the helicopters and died after it crashed
Video footage from the moments before the crash shows the two helicopters converging on each other, with horrified witnesses shouting “no! upon realizing that they will collide.
One family described seeing “the pilot and two elderly people in the front, a lady and a little boy next to her in the back, and another person next to them” boarding the plane before the accident.
An eyewitness described seeing people desperately trying to save a young boy’s life after he was unable to breathe following the accident.
Gold Coast resident Travis Slatter said he saw a ‘woman who put a tube down the boy’s throat to make him breathe’ which triggered a response from the child.
“It was a relief that there was a sign of life, I hope he will recover, but he has a lot to do after what happened,” he said.
Mr Slatter added that the second pilot ‘saved many lives today’, writing on Facebook: ‘To see it first hand and how cut it was and for a second it looked like it was going to fall from the sky too, but succeeding in putting it down is crazy.’
Queensland State Police Acting Inspector Gary Worrell said: ‘Members of the public and police tried to move people away and they started first aid and tried to put these people in safety from an upside-down cell.
“Jet skis, family boaters, ordinary members of the public rushed to help these people.
Mr Jenkinson, pictured, died after the plane crash sent the helicopter plunging into the sandbar
A police officer looks at the damaged cockpit of one of the helicopters following the fatal mid-air accident
The Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) is currently investigating the cause of the accident to determine if a communication error, system malfunction or something else led to the collision.
The Foreign Office said two of those who lost their lives are British nationals and it is supporting their families.
An FCDO spokesperson said: “We are supporting the families of two British nationals who died in Australia and are in contact with the local authorities. »
Sea World Helicopters said: “We and the entire flying community are devastated by what happened and our heartfelt condolences go out to everyone involved and in particular to the loved ones and family of the deceased. »
Village Roadshow Theme Parks, which operates Sea World, said it offered its “sincere condolences to everyone affected” by the tragedy.
“While Sea World Helicopters is an independent professional operator, VRTP works with emergency services and authorities to provide all possible assistance,” he said.
“We are providing support to our team members who have been emotionally affected by the tragedy.
“As this is now a police investigation, we cannot provide any further information at this stage. »
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese tweeted that the country was shocked by the “news of the terrible and tragic incident”.
He wrote: “My thoughts are with everyone affected, including first responders, and my deepest condolences are with those who are grieving. »
Investigators stand by the wreckage of one of the helicopters after the fatal mid-air crash on Australia’s Gold Coast
Rescuers and police arrive at the scene of the accident by boat on Monday afternoon
An Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) investigation will try to determine the cause of the fatal incident.
At a press conference on Tuesday morning, Angus Mitchell, the office’s chief commissioner, said the rotor blade of Mr Jenkinson’s helicopter struck the cockpit of the second plane.
This led to the separation of the “main rotor and gearbox of this helicopter (ascending), which tragically meant that it then had no lift and tragically fell to the ground”, he said. declared.
“The second helicopter that landed was remarkably successful in landing upright considering the damage to the left forward portion of this helicopter…the fact that the helicopter was able to land was quite remarkable. »
He said the crash happened a few hundred meters from the Seaworld landing pad and 200 to 300 meters in the air.
“Transport safety investigators with experience in helicopter operations, maintenance and survivability engineering are deployed from ATSB offices in Brisbane and Canberra and are expected to start arriving at the crash site from Monday afternoon.
“During the evidence-gathering phase of the investigation, ATSB investigators will examine the wreckage and map the crash site. »
“Investigators will also retrieve all relevant components for further examination from the ATSB’s technical facilities in Canberra, collate all available recorded data for analysis and interview witnesses and other parties involved. »
Sea World Helicopters had operated at the site for approximately three decades and conditions appeared ideal on the day of the accident with clear skies.
In 1991, seven people were killed when a company helicopter dived into nearby South Stradbroke Island and burst into flames.
An Aviation Safety Board investigation later revealed that the pilot, Glen Wells, 27, had collapsed at the controls, causing the crash.
Since then, the fleet has been modernized, with all helicopters fitted with Spidertracks GPS tracking systems, designed to alert pilots to other aircraft in the vicinity.
In an interview for the company in 2021, Mr Jenkinson described the system as “easy” to use and called it “very reliable and accurate”.
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