Video from inside the cockpit of one of the helicopters involved in the Sea World tragedy shows a passenger warning the pilot of the approaching other plane.
Footage obtained by Seven News shows inside the higher-positioned helicopter flying in to land – which the pilot managed to stabilize after the collision, allowing all aboard to walk away with minor injuries.
A passenger in the back seat is seen repeatedly patting the pilot desperately on the right shoulder with increasing urgency.
Four people aboard the lower helicopter were killed after diving into the Gold Coast Broadwater sandbar on Monday – pilot Ash Jenkinson, 40, British nationals Ron and Diane Hughes, 65 and 57, and mother from Sydney, Vanessa Tadros, 36.
Footage shows inside the helicopter positioned higher before the collision (pictured)
Ms Tadros’ heartbroken husband Simon asked for prayers for the couple’s son Nicholas, who has undergone multiple operations in hospital since the accident.
“I’m asking everyone to say a prayer for Nicky, so he can wake up and recover properly,” Tadros said on social media.
“He is in an induced coma on a life support machine to help him breathe (sic).
“He is in a very serious and critical condition. I ask for all of your prayers to bring my little man back to me.
The helicopter, which had seven people on board, fell from a height and hit a sandbar after its main rotor struck the windshield of a second helicopter and broke away.
Nicholas and Vanessa Tadros hold their Sea World helicopter pass on Monday (pictured)
British newlyweds Ron and Diane Hughes, 65 and 57, were sadly killed in the crash
Winnie de Silva, 33, and her nine-year-old son, Leon, were also on board that helicopter.
Her husband Neil had taken the Geelong family on a quick vacation to the Gold Coast and decided to shout out the couple a 10-minute flight.
Ms de Silva is in University of Gold Coast Hospital with two broken legs, a broken right shoulder, a broken collarbone and a damaged left knee.
Leon – who only moved from Kenya to Australia a year ago to be with his mother – is in more serious condition as he suffered a fractured skull, traumatic brain injury and facial injuries during the ‘accident.
He is being treated at Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane and is now in an induced coma.
Winnie de Silva, 33, moved from Kenya to Australia and her son Leon, 9 (pictured together) joined her just a year ago
The cockpit of the second helicopter was badly damaged, but 52-year-old pilot Michael James managed to land on the sandbar, saving the lives of his five passengers, four of whom were injured by flying glass.
The passengers included two New Zealand couples – Riaan and Elmarie Steenberg and Marle and Edward Swart – in their 40s who were traveling together, as well as an unnamed Australian woman.
A second video shows Mr James, after successfully landing the helicopter, working to free his passengers from the wreckage by cutting their seat belts with a knife and helping them up.
After the pilot managed to stabilize and land his helicopter, footage shows him pulling his passengers from the wreckage (pictured)
Riaan and Elmarie Steenberg’s son (pictured) thanked pilot Michael James for landing the plane
Marle and Edward Swart (pictured) from Auckland suffered minor injuries from the glass but were otherwise fine
Ms Steenberg took to Facebook on Wednesday, saying: ‘I am still in Gold Coast Hospital recovering from my injuries. All I can say, thank God for sparing us all.
Steenberg’s son Enrico also shared his relief online, thanking Mr James for his remarkable feat in landing the helicopter.
“Thank you (sic) to the pilot for saving my parents from the accident and all my prayers to the family who lost their loved ones,” he wrote.
The Australian Transport Safety Board is investigating the accident, focusing on what was happening inside the two cockpits at the point of impact.
Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said Mr Jenkinson’s plane took off and was in the air for less than 20 seconds before its main rotor blades hit the cockpit of the second helicopter.
The two Sea World helicopters passed each other in front of hundreds of holidaymakers on the Gold Coast
Ash Jenkinson, the helicopter pilot who died in the crash, was from Birmingham but lived in the Gold Coast area.
A friend said the pilot was a “silent hero and a gentle giant” who “would have done anything to bring the helicopter down safely”.
“He was a top guy with so much experience. It’s flown in all kinds of terrain and environments, we’re absolutely shocked,” said Ritchie Gregg.
Mr Jenkinson leaves behind a wife, young son and close family members as well as hundreds of friends who knew him as ‘Jenko’.
Gregg recounted when Mr Jenkinson lent his prized helicopter to help victims of the 2022 floods in New South Wales and Queensland.
“This will always be the highlight of my life and just one of your legacies when we helped flood people. Cheers,” Mr. Gregg wrote on Facebook.
Ash Jenkinson (pictured) was at the controls of the helicopter which plunged into the sandbar
ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said the investigation into the cause of the crash could take months and congratulated Mr James on landing his plane.
“The second helicopter that came in to land was remarkably successful in landing upright, and considering the damage to the front left portion of this helicopter where the pilot was seated, this is a remarkable achievement.”
“Although it was very tragic that four people lost their lives and many families were grieving, we could have had a much worse situation.”
Mr Mitchell said the ‘evidence-gathering phase’ of the ATSB’s investigation would take around six to eight weeks.
He added: “A final report will be issued upon completion of the investigation; however, if critical safety issues are identified at any stage of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify the affected parties so that appropriate safety action can be taken.
Sea World Helicopters, the helicopter company involved, said it would be closed “until further notice”.
A message on the company’s website read: ‘Sea World Helicopters is devastated by the tragic accident on the Gold Coast on January 2.
“Our deepest sympathy and condolences go out to everyone involved in this very sad time. We are closed until further notice and we will refund all tickets purchased.’