Sydney woman Vanessa Tadros died in the crash while her 10-year-old son survived and is fighting for life in hospital.
The helicopter’s pilot Ash Jenkinson, 40, who’d been working at Sea World since 2019 and mentored friends in the aviation industry, was the first to be identified as having died in the crash yesterday.
Jenkinson’s friend Andy Taylor told Today the pilot was important in flood relief efforts across the Northern Rivers last year.
“It was a team effort with a group of our mates and Ash jumped on board straight away when he heard what we were doing,” Taylor said.
“And because of him, we could rescue a lot of people, get a lot of food and supplies to people that otherwise would have never got them.
“It was really humbling to know that he leaves a bit of a legacy, especially with the guys and everyone in the Northern Rivers area. It was a very special thing for him to do.”
Taylor said he couldn’t imagine what Jenkinson’s Helensvale-based family, including his one-year-old son, were going through.
“He was always there,” Taylor said.
“Like I said before, he was a big guy with a big heart and a true legend that’s certainly left a bit of a legacy in the aviation space.”
Video of the scene appeared to show Jenkinson’s helicopter plummeting straight into a sand island on the Gold Coast Broadwater after the collision about 2pm (3pm AEDT) yesterday.
All of the seriously injured patients and dead were in the same helicopter, which plummeted into a sand island in the Gold Coast Broadwater about 2pm (3pm AEDT) yesterday.
All six people on board the other aircraft, which managed to land safely, avoided serious injuries.
Police said the second helicopter’s passengers included a 27-year-old Western Australian woman and two families from New Zealand travelling together.
They comprised a 44-year-old man and 43-year-old woman from one family and a 48-year-old man and 45-year-old woman from the other.
One of the occupants escaped injury while the others were taken to Gold Coast University Hospital for treatment to minor injuries.
The hospital spokesperson said all had been released from hospital but police this morning said the pilot and one passenger were still receiving some treatment.
Tragedy could have been much worse
Experts from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau travelled to the Gold Coast yesterday to begin their investigations.
“So whilst it has been very tragic that four people have lost their lives and many families are mourning this morning, we could have had a far worse situation here,” he said.
“And the fact that that one helicopter managed to land has been quite remarkable.”
Investigators will be looking into what happened in the cockpits immediately before the collision, as well as what processes were in place for the pilots to follow.
They’ll be poring over footage and information from witnesses, the surviving passengers and even fellow tourists who took similar flights earlier in the day.
Mitchell said from initial footage it appeared the main rotor blade of the helicopter taking off, which had been airborne for less than 20 seconds, collided with the front cockpit of the helicopter that was landing.
The impact sheared off the gearbox and rotor blade, causing the aircraft to fall from the sky.
“We have a reasonable understanding of what the two helicopters were doing, as I said, in those critical phases of flight, but exactly why this occurred, what was the range of visibility from both the pilots, what was happening inside the cabins at the time, they’re the things that will help us piece together, potentially what may have been a contributing factor here,” Mitchell said.
“But it’s still very early stages in the investigation to start speculating.”