A bombshell report into the Sea World helicopter crash on the Gold Coast in Australia, which resulted in the death of a British couple and pilot, has been released.
In the report, one pilot said he “did not recall” his fellow pilot making a standard taxiing call to say he was taking off before their helicopters collided and crashed, killing four people and injuring nine others.
Ashley “Ash” Jenkinson, 40, who had only recently become a father, died alongside three of his passengers – including British newlyweds Diane and Ron Hughes, 57 and 65.
Air crash investigators say pilot Michael James told them he saw five passengers boarding the second helicopter at a helipad near Sea World as he was coming in to land his aircraft with six passengers at another helipad nearby.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) says the pilot thought the second helicopter would pass behind his aircraft and he doesn’t remember the other pilot radioing him to say he was taking off.
A third helicopter pilot in the area at the time recalled hearing James’ inbound call but did not recall hearing a taxi call from the other pilot taking off.
A fourth helicopter pilot could not recall hearing calls from either of the two pilots involved in the crash before their aircraft collided.
However, ATSB commissioner Angus Mitchell said that evidence “did not necessarily mean that a taxiing call was not made” by the pilot taking off and investigators would probe the radio calls in the lead-up to the crash.
The report said the two Eurocopter EC130 helicopters were being operated by Sea World Helicopters (a separate corporate entity to the theme park) on five-minute scenic flights.
Vanessa Tadros, 36, a mom from New South Wales, UK, also died but her 10-year-old Nicholas son survived. He had 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.
ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said: “The ATSB has released this preliminary report to detail the circumstances of this tragic accident as we currently understand them, but it is important to stress that we are yet to make findings.
“Our findings as to the contributing factors to this accident, and the analysis to support those findings, will be detailed in a final report to be released at the conclusion of our investigation.”
Mitchell said the investigation will also look more broadly beyond the issues of radio calls and visibility.
“The ATSB will also consider the operator’s procedures and practices for operating scenic flights in the Sea World area and the process for implementing the recently-acquired EC130 helicopters into operation, and will review the regulatory surveillance of the operator and similar operators.”
He said it will be “a complex and comprehensive investigation”, adding that if the ATSB identifies a critical safety issue during the investigation, it will immediately alert the relevant parties so they can take appropriate action.
Sonde like a bunch of inept people to me,