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04th Jan 2023

British newlyweds die in helicopter crash on holiday in Australia

Steve Hopkins

‘Our family is heartbroken’

The British couple who died in a crash involving two helicopters on Australia’s Gold Coast were on the trip of a lifetime visiting their family.

Ron and Diane Hughes, aged 65 and 57, were two of the four people killed when two helicopters collided mid-air in front of hundreds of horrified tourists near Sea World on Monday afternoon.

The couple, from Merseyside, married in August 2021 and had reportedly been in Australia visiting his daughter Jane Manns and grandchildren.

Jane and her husband Ben said in a statement to 7News: “Our family is heartbroken and we are still trying to contact friends and family to let them know. Please respect our privacy at this devastating time.”

Initial investigations into the crash suggest it occurred when one helicopter was landing and the other was taking off near Seaworld Drive, Main Beach, around 2pm (4am GMT).

The pilot of one helicopter, Ash Jenkinson, who grew up in the West Midlands before moving to Australia, has been named as the third British victim.

The 40-year-old’s helicopter collided with another piloted by Michael James.

Australian mother, Vanessa Tadros, 36, was also killed.

Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll hinted that criminal charges could be filed but it was “still early days” in the investigation.

The crash is said to have occurred just 20 seconds after the lower aircraft took off and the two Eurocopter EC130s collided around 250ft off the ground.

As the first chopper gained altitude, it smashed into the second helicopter, which appeared to be descending, MailOnline reported.

The rotors of the first helicopter reportedly tore into the cabin of the second one, shattering its glass cockpit just centimetres from the pilot and passengers inside.

The force of the collision ripped the rotor unit and gearbox from the lower chopper, the publisher said, sending it tumbling to the ground below, where it smashed into a sandbar, killing the pilot, the Hughes’ and Tadros.

The other pilot managed to land on a sandbar and is being praised for the way he handled the situation, saving the lives of his five passengers.

The Hughes’ are believed to be related to Tadros, who had boarded the aircraft with her son Nicholas, 10, who survived the crash but is in a critical condition.

Two other people on board – who have been named as, Winnie De Silva, 33, and nine-year-old Leon – were also hospitalised after the helicopter landed upside down on a sandbank.

Of the six occupants in the other helicopter, five suffered minor injuries while one left the scene unscathed.

Pilot, Ash Jenkinson, welcomed a son, Kayden, in September 2021, with his wife, Kosha.

In a local Facebook group, friend Deanie White posted: “I am so sad and am very sorry to be the bearer of terrible news.

“The helicopter pilot, Ash “Jenko” Jenkinson, who brought emergency supplies from the skies in a Sea World helicopter to Ballina Shire flood survivors in February 2022 died today in a helicopter crash.

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

“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.

“His friends who were also involved in that civilian flood response have asked me to share this sad news with you. I thought he was invincible. He was humble and had a big heart. I can’t believe he is gone. Vale Ash.”

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