Bombshell report released after Sea World helicopter crash killed four people – as pilot reveals what happened just before deadly collision
One pilot “didn’t recall” his fellow pilot making a standard taxi call to say he was taking off before their helicopters collided and crashed, killing four people and injuring nine others on the Gold Coast.
Air crash investigators say pilot Michael James told them he saw five passengers boarding the second helicopter at a helipad near Sea World on Jan. 2 as he came in to land his six-passenger plane at another helipad near.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau says the pilot thought the second helicopter was going to pass behind his plane and he does not recall the other pilot radioing him that it was going to take off.
“They did not recall the pilot of the XKQ making a standard ‘taxiing’ call announcing their intention to depart,” the ATSB’s preliminary report on the crash said.
A third helicopter pilot who was in the area at the time remembered hearing the incoming call from Mr. James, but did not recall hearing a taxi call from the other pilot taking off.
A fourth helicopter pilot could not recall hearing calls from one of the two pilots involved in the crash before their plane collided.
Pilot Ashley Jenkinson (pictured), 40, and his passengers, including British couple Ron and Diane Hughes, 65 and 57, and Sydney mother Vanessa Tadros, 36, were among the dead
Three pilots do not recall a colleague radioing that he was taking off before his plane collided with another helicopter, killing four people
However, ATSB Commissioner Angus Mitchell said evidence “did not necessarily mean that a taxi call was not made” by the pilot taking off and that investigators would investigate the radio calls leading up to the crash.
The report said Mr James had also told the ATSB that he had not seen the second helicopter take off from the helipad.
“While video footage taken on mobile phones by passengers in both helicopters includes footage from the other helicopter, it does not mean that the other helicopter was visible to either pilot,” Mitchell said.
“The investigation will look closely at the problems both pilots encountered when seeing the other helicopter.”
Four people died and nine people were injured, including three critically, when the two planes collided in mid-air and crashed into the sandbar.
Pilot Ashley Jenkinson, 40, and his passengers, including British couple Ron and Diane Hughes, 65 and 57, and Sydney mother Vanessa Tadros, 36, were among the dead.
Sea World pilot Michael James managed to land his plane safely after the collision
Ms Tadros’ 10-year-old son, Nicholas, has been undergoing procedures in hospital since the accident and last week had his leg amputated from the knee down.
Victorian mother Winnie de Silva, 33, and her nine-year-old son Leon are recovering from injuries sustained in the crash.
The pilot of the second helicopter, Mr. James, managed to land his aircraft safely, but he and two of his passengers were injured by flying glass when the windshield shattered.
The injured were the New Zealand women Elmarie Steenberg and Marle Swart, who had been on holiday with their husbands Riaan Steenberg and Edward Swart.
The full ATSB report on the collision from the Air Transport Safety Bureau is not expected until September 2024.