British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in Australia

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British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in Australia
British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in Australia

Brit couple Ron and Diane Hughes, 65 and 57, have been named among four killed after a mid-air helicopter crash near Sea World in Australia.

The collision took place as one helicopter was landing while another was taking off at a tourist hotspot known as Main Beach, on the Gold Coast at around 2pm on Monday.

One of the choppers managed to successfully land on a sandbank, said Queensland Police, and the other crashed while containing seven people.

“Our family is heartbroken and we are still trying to contact friends and family to let them know,” Jane and Ben Manns said in a statement to Australian media.

“Please respect our privacy at this devastating time.”

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Diane's brother wrote on Facebook : “We would also like to thank you all for the love and support we have received. We are truly humbled at this heartbreaking time."

British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in AustraliaDiane and Ron Hughes, pictured, who died in the tragedy

Ash Jenkinson, 40, who grew up in Birmingham in the Midlands before moving to Australia, was named as the third British victim. Reports say he had become a father not long before the tragic crash.

He died alongside three passengers, including Mr and Mrs Hughes and 36-year-old Vanessa Tadros from New South Wales.

Ms Tadros' 10-year-old son Nicholas was taken to hospital in a critical condition as were Winnie De Silva, aged 33, and her nine-year-old son Leon, it is reported.

Mr Jenkinson was one of four passengers who died at the scene. These included Mr and Mrs Hughes and Vanessa Tadros, 36, from New South Wales. Ms Tadros is understood to have known Mr and Mrs Hughes.

Ms Tadros' 10-year-old son Nicholas was taken to hospital in a critical condition as were Winnie De Silva, aged 33, and her nine-year-old son Leon, it is reported.

British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in AustraliaAsh Jenkinson, chief pilot for Sea World Helicopters, died in the collision (Facebook)
British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in AustraliaColleagues paid tribute to the pilot, describing him as a man "with a such golden heart" (Facebook)

Nicholas was pulled from the carnage before paramedics rushed him for treatment. His father, who watched the horrors unfold on the beach, remains by his bedside.

Five riders in the other helicopter suffered minor injuries, with one unharmed.

ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell told a press conference that the crash happened when one helicopter taking off - which the fatal victims were riding in - crashed into another that was trying to land.

An FCDO spokesperson earlier said: "We are supporting the family of two British nationals who died in Australia and are in contact with the local authorities."

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British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in AustraliaThe couple were married in 2021

Ron and Diane Hughes married in August, 2021, and were holidaying in Australia, having travelled to the Gold Coast to visit Ron’s daughter Jane Manns, her husband Ben Manns and their children, reported 7News.com.au.

Ron, a businessman from Cheshire, co-founded Concept Interiors on Neston High Street in 1986, with the couple believed to have lived on the Wirral, according to CheshireLive.

Devastated friends and family paid tribute to Mr Jenkinson, who was the chief pilot for Sea World Helicopters, which operates tours for the theme park. He leaves behind a wife and young son.

British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in Australia

One person wrote: "You started as a work colleague and quickly became a mate. A huge tragedy! You are definitely going to be missed you absolute legend of a bloke."

Another colleague said: "A man with a such golden heart, cheeky sense of humour and always such a laugh to be around."

A friend Andy Taylor said “he was a big guy with a big heart”.

“He did a lot of charity work. We did floods down in Ballina with a team of us who went down and saved a lot of people. Ash was a big part of it. He led us into ground zero and helped a lot," he said.

British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in AustraliaFour people, including two British citizens, have died in Australia after two helicopters collided (DAVE HUNT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

“He loved (flying). It was his life. But above all, he was a family man. He loved his family. His family was certainly first and helicopter second. But they were two passions of his life.”

Footage of the crash showed a helicopter shortly after take-off being clipped by another aircraft flying over the water.

Dan Hargreaves, who was at a cafe overlooking Seaworld at the time of the crash, told the Mirror how he heard a "loud bang like a big gunshot".

He said: "I saw the more damaged helicopter going down and hit the sand moments afterwards. It all happened in a matter of seconds, and was business as usual before that."

Mr Hargreaves, who is local to the area, says he sees many helicopters operating tours there on a daily basis.

He added: "Luckily no people were below the crash when it happened, as far as I could tell. Both helicopters ended up on an empty sandbank.

British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in AustraliaThe newlyweds tied the knot in August 2021

"There were hundreds of people on my side of the water that saw it too. Everyone was just looking on in shock unable to do anything.

"As many people that were near seemed to rush over, you could see them getting off jet skis and running over.

"Honestly it was traumatic and just devastating for the people involved."

One helicopter landed safely on a sandbank, but debris from the other was spread across an area which police described as difficult to access.

"Members of the public and police tried to remove the people and they commenced first aid and tried to get those people to safety from an airframe that was upside down," Mr Worrell said.

British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in AustraliaPolice and Fire and Rescue personnel inspect a helicopter at the scene of the collision (DAVE HUNT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

"(People on) Jet Skis, family boaters, ordinary members of the public rushed to assist these people."

Passengers in the other helicopter, which lost its windscreen in the crash, were also receiving medical assistance.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said one of the choppers - which had minimal injuries among its passengers - was taking off and had only been in the air for around 20 seconds when its main rotor collided with the cockpit of another helicopter coming into land.

The higher number of fatalities in the second chopper were due to the crash landing on to the sandbar that followed the collision.

“It does appear that the main rotor blade of the helicopter blade taking off has collided with the front cockpit of the descending helicopter on the left-hand side,” said Mr Mitchell.

British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in AustraliaThose who died were reportedly all passengers in the same helicopter (Uncredited/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

“Now, exactly whether that was the very first point of impact, we’re yet to determine.

“The helicopter taking off was in the air for less than 20 seconds and after the collision, it was a matter of seconds before it’s hit the ground. So it has unfolded very quickly.

“But from the footage that we’ve seen and from the damage that we can witness on there, we do know that the second helicopter has landed on the sandbar.

“That has obviously led to a stage where we aren’t seeing more fatalities here than what we could have.”

The ATSB has started an investigation into the crash and is piecing together what happened.

Sea World Helicopters, a separate company from the theme park, expressed its condolences and said it was cooperating with the authorities handling the crash investigation.

"We and the entire flying community are devastated by what has happened and our sincere condolences go to all those involved and especially the loved ones and family of the deceased," the statement said.

British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in AustraliaTheir family has revealed they're "devastated" and "heartbroken" after receiving the news

The company did not confirm if it operated one or both helicopters involved in the crash, saying it would not comment further because of the investigation.

A witness named John told Melbourne radio station 3AW that patrons at Sea World heard the crash, and staff moved swiftly to close off areas closest to the crash.

"There was a massive, massive bang," he said. "It was just huge.

British couple named after four die in mid-air helicopter crash in AustraliaOne helicopter appeared to have been taking off and the other landing when they crashed (DAVE HUNT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

"I'm not sure if it was the propellers or whatever hitting against each other. But there was this poor lady and her son near the helipad in tears."

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the accident was an "unthinkable tragedy".

"My deepest sympathies are with each of the families and everyone affected by this terrible accident," she said.

The Gold Coast region is at its busiest in January, the peak time for holidays in Australia's summer.

Katie Weston

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