Radio silence claim in Gold Coast helicopter tragedy

Report reveals final moments in helicopter crash

A pilot “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 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 as he was coming in to land his aircraft with six passengers at another helipad nearby on January 2.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said the pilot thought the second helicopter would pass behind his aircraft and he did not remember the other pilot radioing him to say he was taking off.

“They did not recall the pilot of XKQ making a standard “taxiing” call announcing their intention to depart,” the ATSB’s preliminary report, released on Tuesday, into the crash said.

A third helicopter pilot in the area at the time recalled hearing Mr 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 Mr James also told the ATSB he didn’t see the second helicopter take off from the helipad.

“While video footage taken by passengers in both helicopters on mobile phones contained images of the other helicopter, this does not mean that the other helicopter was visible to either pilot,” Mr Mitchell said.

“The investigation will look closely at the issues both pilots faced in seeing the other helicopter.”

Four people died and nine people were injured, including three critically, when the two aircraft collided mid-air and crashed into the sandbar.

Pilot Ashley Jenkinson, 40, and three of his passengers – British couple Ron and Diane Hughes, 65 and 57, and Sydney mother Vanessa Tadros, 36 – died.

Ms Tadros’ son Nicholas, 10, 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 chopper, Mr James, managed to land his aircraft safely, but he and two of his passengers were injured by flying glass when its windshield shattered.

The injured were 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 into the collision by the Air Transport Safety Bureau is not expected until at least September 2024.


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