Friends 'hearts ache' after 'hero' Brit pilot dies in helicopter crash wreckage

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Friends 'hearts ache' after 'hero' Brit pilot dies in helicopter crash wreckage

Heartbroken friends have shared touching tributes to a British dad who was tragically killed when the helicopter he was piloting crashed into the sands of the Gold Coast in Australia.

Ashley "Ash" Jenkinson, 40, who had only recently become a father, died alongside three of his passengers - including newlyweds Diane and Ron Hughes, 57 and 65, who were on a once-in-a-lifetime trip Down Under.

Mum Vanessa Tadros, 36, from New South Wales, also died but her 10-year-old Nicholas son survived. He was rushed to hospital in critical condition, where his devastated dad remains by his bedside.

Ash, who grew up in the West Midlands but moved to Australia for a new life, was described as a kind-hearted and charitable man who had used his piloting skills to deliver emergency supplies during floods in 2022.

Taking to Facebook to share their tributes, friends remembered him as having a "heart bigger than anyone else's".

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Close friend Kristy Frost wrote: "Trying to put into words how much of an impact Ash Jenkinson has had on my life and everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him is almost impossible.

Friends 'hearts ache' after 'hero' Brit pilot dies in helicopter crash wreckageBirmingham-born Ash Jenkinson, pictured here with his wife, was described by heartbroken friends as a "top gun" (Facebook)

"Ash was the most kind hearted and selfless man to walk the earth. The love he had for his beautiful family and friends was certainly one of a kind and this extended to anyone who would cross his path.

"I had the privilege of living with Ash for many years on the coast and became one of the bestest friends I ever had. His heart was bigger than anyone else’s and I will cherish those fun filled years forever."

The post continued: "Where ever you may be now, I hope you know how very loved you are and how much of an impact you had on anyone in your presence and how proud I was to have a friend like you.

Friends 'hearts ache' after 'hero' Brit pilot dies in helicopter crash wreckageMr Jenkinson was piloting the helicopter when a rotor blade caused the horror crash (Facebook)
Friends 'hearts ache' after 'hero' Brit pilot dies in helicopter crash wreckageFriends have taken to Facebook to share countless touching memories and tributes to Mr Jenkinson (Facebook)

"You are truly one of a kind and if there were more of you on this earth, it would be a much better place. Your fun loving, adventurous soul will be so dearly missed forever.

"I promise to always talk about you, to keep Kosh and Kayden held tightly and to make sure Kayden knows his Daddy was a real life hero [...].

"Kosh, you were his soul mate. What you two have created together is a life most people would dream of. You made him the happiest man and most importantly an amazing Daddy to your beautiful little man. My heart aches for you both. I’m just so sorry.

"Fly high darling boy."

Another pal, Dustyn Oloman, said he was "blessed to have you in our lives".

Friends 'hearts ache' after 'hero' Brit pilot dies in helicopter crash wreckageA GoFundMe has been set up to support Mr Jenkinson's wife (pictured) and child (Facebook)

"You stood so tall, strong and proud, you were amazing mate!"

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He added: "I can still feel your hand shake and your man hug. You will be missed my friend and I so wish we caught up for that beer we promised each other so many times.

"You were a great friend to me and I hope I was all that to you too."

Blair Chave, another member of Ash's circle, detailed how passionate he was about his job, which he "absolutely loved".

For Ash, piloting didn't "only include rides for tourists but also he battled the intense bush fires a few years back and helped the flood victims...respect".

Friends 'hearts ache' after 'hero' Brit pilot dies in helicopter crash wreckageOne helicopter appeared to have been taking off and the other landing when they crashed (DAVE HUNT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Ritchie Gregg said he was "gutted" but was getting through by sharing stories about his close pal.

He told the Independent: “Gutted, but what’s keeping me through is telling you guys about his legacy.

"About what he did, what kind of a guy he was."

Ritchie explained how he sensed his friend may have been the pilot when he saw his messages weren't being delivered.

Friends 'hearts ache' after 'hero' Brit pilot dies in helicopter crash wreckageBritish married couple, 57 and 65, who died in a helicopter crash when two choppers collided on Australia's Gold Coast

He added that with his piloting skills, Ash would have done "everything to bring that helicopter down safely".

"For him to actually land it on the sandbank, and not in the water...That's Ash," Ritchie added.

"He was a big guy with a lot of muscle, he would've put his whole brute force into that."

"He would've shift his whole bodyweight into the helicopter to make sure it didn't land in the water."

Ash's identity as one of the victims was revealed yesterday by Deanie White, who announced how he "brought emergency supplies from the skies in a Sea World helicotper to Ballina Shire flood survivors in February 2022."

"If you heard my call and brought supplies to Kingsford Smith Park to be choppered out to flood survivors- Ash flew them there," she said.

Friends 'hearts ache' after 'hero' Brit pilot dies in helicopter crash wreckageMr Jenkinson with pal Kristy Frost, who left a touching tribute on Facebook (Facebook)

"If you received bags of food and loo paper and nappies via helicopter from Ballina, Ash brought them to you.

"He was a kind, generous man. If it wasn’t for Ash, those flights would never have happened."

Following the tragedy, family friend Morgan Reid set up a GoFundMe with the proceeds going to help Ash's crushed partner, Kosha, and their young boy.

The page reads: "I’m fundraising for my beautiful friend Kosha- who tragically lost her husband Ash in a helicopter accident 2/1.

"Ash was the pilot involved and they are such a wonderful family- Ash and Kosha have a one year old boy, Kayden.

Friends 'hearts ache' after 'hero' Brit pilot dies in helicopter crash wreckageAnother friend stressed how Mr Jenkinson would have used "brute force" to bring the chopper down safely (Facebook)

"Any donations will go straight to Kosha to help her and Kayden out in any way they need."

At the time of writing it had raised $720 AUD (£405).

Ash was carrying a group of tourists, including Cheshire businessman Ron and his wife Diane Hughes, who had visited Australia's stunning Gold Coast to visit Ron's daughter, Jane Manns, her husband Ben Manns and their children.

Australian mum Vanessa Tadros, 36, who was from New South Wales but on a cross-state trip with her son Nicholas, 10, was also tragically killed in the smash.

Nicholas survived but is in critical condition in hospital where his father remains at his bedside.

Friends 'hearts ache' after 'hero' Brit pilot dies in helicopter crash wreckageVanessa Tadros died in a helicopter crash in Gold Coast, 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.”

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."

Relatives are expected to touch down in Australia over the next few days.

Friends 'hearts ache' after 'hero' Brit pilot dies in helicopter crash wreckageFour people, including two British citizens, have died in Australia after two helicopters collided (DAVE HUNT/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

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, the chief commissioner added.

“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.

“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.”

Ryan Fahey

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