A British couple and a young mother have been identified as the remaining victims of a freak mid-air helicopter collision in Australia that left four people dead and three more fighting for their lives.
All on board have now been identified.
Sydney mother Vanessa Tadros, 36, and British newlyweds Ron, 65, and Diane Hughes, 57, were killed in the crash on the Gold Coast yesterday afternoon.
Their pilot, Ash “Jenko” Jenkinson, 40, also lost his life when the main rotors of the helicopter he was flying collided with a landing chopper near a Sea World theme park.
All the deaths happened in the same helicopter which crashed on to a sandbar after impact. The three remaining passengers are in a critical condition.
Tadros’ young son Nicholas survived the crash but is fighting for his life in hospital and has no idea his mother is dead, according to the Courier Mail.
The 10-year-old boy has reportedly undergone four surgeries in the last 24 hours, with his family travelling from Sydney to be by his side.
A 35-year-old mother and a 9-year-old boy travelling from Geelong West in Victoria remain in hospital in a critical condition.
Tadros, also known as Vanessa Geagea, was on holiday from Sydney. Her husband did not join the pair on the doomed chopper.
A relative took to social media after learning of her cousin’s death.
“R.I.P. cousin Vanessa Geagea. You passed away too soon in this horrific tragedy,” she said.
“May God have mercy on you, Vanessa, yourself in heaven, and may God heal your son, O Lord, and grant him peace”
The Hughes couple, from Liverpool in the UK, only got married in 2021.
Friends back home shared their thoughts after the pair were killed during Monday’s crash.
“Absolutely lost for words, heartbroken,” one wrote.
Mum and son in hospital
Geelong mum Winnie De Silva, 33, and her 9-year-old son Leon were among three survivors seriously injured during the crash.
The mother and son, who were on the same helicopter in which the four people died, were rushed to Gold Coast University Hospital.
De Silva remains in a critical but stable condition while Leon is also critical in Queensland’s Children’s Hospital.
Her husband Neil, with whom she and Leon were holidaying in Queensland, started a GoFundMe for the pair.
“Thankfully, they are both alive but have a lot of surgery ahead of them, which means the family will need to stay here on the Gold Coast, and I won’t be able to return to work,” he wrote.
“I’m hoping you can help us out with a small donation to keep us on our feet while Winnie and Leon recover.”
New Zealanders on board
Queensland Police have confirmed that four New Zealanders were on board the other helicopter involved in the horror collision.
All six passengers in that helicopter, which was able to land, survived with one unhurt and five suffering only minor injuries.
The passengers included two families from New Zealand who were travelling together, 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. A 27-year-old Western Australia woman also survived.
The Kiwi passengers escaped with just cuts and scratches, the Herald has been told.
After the crash, they were transported to Gold Coast University Hospital for treatm
ent for minor injuries, Queensland police said. But a Gold Coast Health spokeswoman told the Herald they were treated in the emergency department for cuts and scratches and were not admitted.
Queensland Police has said it appeared the collision occurred as one aircraft was taking off and the other landing from a heliport on Main Beach.
The second ‘landing’ helicopter was “remarkably” able to land upright on the sandbar despite “considerable damage” to the front of the aircraft.
“It was a remarkable job considering the damage that was done to the front-left hand part of the aircraft where the pilot was sitting,” Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said today.
“We could have had a far worse situation here.
“What we do need to know now is, what was occurring inside those cockpits.”
‘I hope that wasn’t you’
Ash Jenkinson, 40, the chief pilot for Sea World Helicopters, was flying one of the helicopters when it crashed into a sandbank.
Jenkinson, who was originally from Birmingham in the UK, was known to hundreds on the Gold Coast as “Jenko”, and leaves behind a wife and a 1-year-old son.
Friend Richie Gregg told the Daily Mail Jenkinson was a “a top guy, top gun and the best dad” who would be sorely missed by his wife Kosha and 17-month-old baby son, Kaiden.
“When he and Kosha had their son he was the most excited dad,” he said.
“[Kosha] is very silent, she’s in shock. Kaiden … would probably be asking where dad is.
“They only got married in October.
“When he’d finished work flying, he’d be straight home to see his boy.”
According the Daily Mail, Gregg texted the words “I hope that wasn’t you” to Jenkinson after hearing of the crash.
Gregg also reminisced on a time they used their helicopter know-how to help out during the 2022 northern NSW floods.
“Almost a year ago [we] came together to use Ash Jenkinson’s Heli to help flood victims in northern NSW – delivering aid and evacuating people. Today we lost a great mate and a legend.
“It will always be the absolute highlight of my life what we did.”
Another close mate Andy Taylor said he discovered the horrifying news along with everyone else, on social media.
“I tried to ring Ash straight away,” he said.
“At first the phone was dead and then it went to the voicemail.”
He described Jenkinson as “a big guy with a big heart,” who helped out during the height of the NSW Northern Rivers’ flood crisis last year.
“He did a lot of charity work, we did the floods down in Ballina and saved a lot of people,” Taylor told Sunrise today.
The pilot transported food, water and other essential items to flood survivors who were cut off from their community for days.
“He is the best of the best. I don’t know what else to say.”
Witnesses describe horrific crash scene
Pictures from the aftermath show one of the choppers wholly wrecked in the crash while the other had its front destroyed.
“Massive bang heard right through the Broadwater tourist park, then the swooshing as the one that lost control hit the water and broke apart.
“It’s just awful. Everyone is in shock.”
Another witness “heard a bang” before seeing smoke billowing from one of the aircraft.
“It was smoking and wobbling to the ground,” they said.
“One person was asking whether it was part of the Sea World show.”
Local Tor Kumpel and his wife were swimming at the nearby Broadwater estuary and witnessed the collision.
“I could see two helicopters. One was coming up, and the other one was coming down and the back rotor collected the one coming down,” he told the Courier Mail.
“It was only one helicopter that crashed. The one that was coming up. It was horrific to see.”
Another eyewitness, John, called into 3AW radio to detail what he saw.
“It was just huge. I’m not sure if it was the propellers or whatever hitting against each other,” he said.
Another reported seeing one of the choppers “nosedived into the ground at full speed”.
Sea World responds
Sea World Helicopters expressed its sympathy for those involved in the crash – and said it was co-operating with the authorities to find out what happened.
The company did not confirm if it operated one or both helicopters involved in the crash.
“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,” a spokesperson said.
“We are co-operating with all the authorities including the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and the Queensland Police.
“As it is now a police investigation, we cannot provide any further information at this stage.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the country had been left shocked by the “terrible and tragic incident”.
“My thoughts are with all those affected, including first responders, and my deepest sympathies are with those who are grieving,” he added.
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.
- With Madeleine Achenza, NCA NewsWire