Pilot, 2 British visitors among 4 killed in Australia crash

MELBOURNE – A pilot, two British visitors and a woman from Sydney have been identified as the four people killed in a collision between two helicopters over the waterfront at an Australian tourist hotspot.

Authorities say it was fortunate the death toll was not higher when two planes operated by Sea World Helicopters crashed. The pilot of the second helicopter managed to land safely on a sandy ledge, although the plane was damaged in Monday afternoon’s collision near Main Beach on Australia’s Gold Coast.

“Considering the damage done to the front left portion of the helicopter where the pilot was seated, it was a remarkable achievement,” said Angus Mitchell, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, whose office is investigating the crash.

“So while it was very tragic that four people lost their lives and many people are mourning this morning, we could have had a much worse situation here and the fact that a helicopter was able to land was quite remarkable.”

The late pilot, Ashley Jenkinson, had worked as chief pilot at Sea World Helicopters since 2019 and friends have commended his mentorship and the help he provided during catastrophic flooding in the New South Wales town of Ballina last year. The Gold Coast Bulletin reported he was 40 years old and became a father in September.

His helicopter had been airborne less than 20 seconds when he collided with the second Sea World helicopter attempting to land.

Mitchell said the plane’s main rotor blade made contact with the forward cockpit of the descending helicopter.

“That alone caused the main rotor and gearbox to separate from this helicopter, causing it then tragically to have no lift and fall heavily to the ground,” he said.

Investigators remain at the crash site, but a rising sea tide made gathering evidence from the scene even more difficult.

Mitchell said investigators wanted to find out what was going on in the “cockpits at the time” of the collision.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said it was supporting the family of the late 57-year-old woman and 65-year-old man from Britain, who were on holiday in Australia’s Queensland state.

The other passenger who died was a 36-year-old woman from the Sydney suburb of Glenmore Park.

Three passengers on the flight remain hospitalized: a 10-year-old boy, also from Glenmore Park, in critical condition, a 33-year-old woman from Geelong in critical condition, and a 9-year-old boy from Victoria state whose condition was stable.

The helicopter, which landed safely, included two couples in their 40s from New Zealand and a 27-year-old woman from Western Australia. Three of the five passengers remain hospitalized after being showered with glass.

Holidaymakers and people enjoying the water rushed to help rescue workers when the crash happened near Sea World marine park during Australia’s peak holiday season.

The authorities praised the population, who rushed to the helicopters’ aid.

“Our thoughts go out to all those affected here, not just those in the helicopter and their extended families, but also those who were out on the broad water yesterday and witnessed the confrontational scenes of the helicopters coming down, especially those who were the first responders,” Mitchell said.

Village Roadshow Theme Parks, which owns Sea World Helicopters, said in a statement that it is cooperating with authorities and offers “its deepest condolences” to those affected by the tragedy.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also expressed his “deepest condolences” to the mourners.

“Australia is shocked at the news of the terrible and tragic helicopter accident… in the Gold Coast,” he wrote on social media.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

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