British couple killed in Gold Coast helicopter crashon January 3, 2023 at 4:22 am

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A British couple and two Australians were killed in a mid-air collision on the Gold Coast.

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A mid-air collision between two helicopters in Australia could have seen many more deaths, authorities say.

A British couple and two Australians died in the crash on Monday near Sea World on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Three others – including two children – were seriously injured.

The cause of the crash is not yet known. Officials say it happened less than 20 seconds after one helicopter took off from a sandbar and collided with another aircraft that was landing.

All those killed and critically injured were in the ascending helicopter, which crashed within seconds after its main rotor blade struck the cockpit of the other aircraft, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) said.

The second helicopter landed upright on the sandbank. Five of the six people on board suffered minor injuries.

The landing was a “remarkable achievement” given the helicopter was damaged “where the pilot was sitting”, ATSB chief commissioner Angus Mitchell said.

“We are very fortunate that we’re not standing here with far more deaths,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

The UK victims – a woman, 57, and a man, 65 – were married and had a next of kin in Australia, Queensland Police said. They and another woman who died, a 36-year-old Australian, have not been identified.

The fourth victim was 40-year-old Ashley Jenkinson, an experienced Sea World Helicopters pilot who lived in the area.

Mr Jenkinson was a “big guy with a big heart”, said one friend quoted by local media. The Brisbane Times reported he was originally from England and had helped with recovery efforts after devastating floods in Lismore, New South Wales, last year.

A boy, 10, and a woman, 33, remained in a critical condition in hospital on Tuesday, police said. A nine-year-old boy with serious injuries was described as stable.

Both helicopters were operating tourist flights for Sea World – one of several popular theme parks on the Gold Coast. Its owner, Village Roadshow Theme Parks, has offered condolences and said Sea World Helicopters is an independent operator.

The ATSB says it will conduct interviews and meticulously scour the helicopters, scene, footage, and other evidence before speculating on what caused the crash. It called on eyewitnesses to come forward.

Police said boat operators had rushed to help after the crash at about 14:00 local time (04:00 GMT), including by giving CPR.

Authorities had faced challenges accessing the sandbank and later securing evidence amid tidal changes, officials said.

The ATSB’s preliminary report is due in six to eight weeks.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the country had been left shocked by the “terrible and tragic incident”.

The UK foreign office has said it is supporting the victims’ families and will remain in contact with local authorities.

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