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04th Jan 2023

Passenger recorded moment he tried to get pilot’s attention to stop fatal helicopter crash

Steve Hopkins

The video shows the moment the helicopter’s windshield shattered

Chilling footage shows the moment a passenger inside a helicopter involved in horror mid-air collision that claimed four lives desperately tried to get the pilot’s attention.

British couple Ron and Diane Hughes were killed in the crash on Monday, near Sea World on Australia’s Gold Coast – believed to have occurred when one helicopter was taking off while the other landed – along with pilot, Ash Jenkinson, who grew up in the West Midlands before moving Down Under, and Australian mother, Vanessa Tadros.

7News obtained footage showing the moment a tourist raised the alarm when he noticed something was wrong from the rear of the descending helicopter. The passenger tries to get the pilot’s attention, before tapping him on the shoulder, and then is seen gripping his seat and bracing for impact as the aircraft’s windshield shatters, showering the helicopter with glass.

Warning: The following video may disturb some readers. 

7NEWS said it had decided not to show the footage in full.

Onboard the helicopter was Riaan and Elmarie Steenberg and Marle and Edward Swart, all from Auckland in New Zealand, pilot Michael James, and another unnamed passenger, the network said.

Elmarie Steenberg posted on Facebook on Wednesday confirming the group were involved in the crash.

“I am still in hospital in the Gold Coast, recovering from my injuries,” she said.

“All I can say thank you to God for sparing all of us.”

The Steenbergs’ son, Enrico, took to Instagram to thank Michael James for the safe landing.

“Thx (sic) to the pilot for saving my parents from the crash and all prayers to the family who lost their loved ones,” he wrote.

James has been applauded for miraculously landing his helicopter amid the carnage.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said the helicopter that was taking off was in the air for less than 20 seconds before the crash.

“After the collision, it was a matter of seconds before it has hit the ground,” he told reporters, according to 7news’ report.

Mitchell’s called James’ landing a “remarkable achievement”.

“We could’ve had a far worse situation here,” he said. “The fact that one helicopter has been able to land has been remarkable.”

Ron and Diane Hughes, aged 65 and 57,  are from Merseyside and married in August 2021. They were reportedly in Australia visiting his daughter Jane Manns and grandchildren.

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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