British pair among four killed in helicopter collision in Australia

A 57-year-old woman and 65-year-old died on Monday

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Two UK citizens who died in a mid-air crash between two helicopters in Australia were a couple on holiday in the country, authorities said.

Queensland Police said the pair, a 57-year-old woman and 65-year-old man, were among four people killed in the incident on the Gold Coast of Queensland state on Monday.

Ron and Diane Hughes, from Merseyside, married in August 2021 and were in the country to visit their daughter Jane.

In a statement, Jane and her husband Ben said told 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."

Ron and Diane Hughes
Ron and Diane Hughes

A spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said in a statement: “We are supporting the family of two British nationals who died in Australia and are in contact with the local authorities.”

The crash occurred around 2pm local time (4am GMT) in Main Beach.

The force said initial investigations indicated the collision occurred when one helicopter was taking off and the other was landing.

One landed safely on a sandbank with five of its six passengers suffering minor injuries.

The other helicopter crashed, killing four of those inside and leaving three critically injured.

Police said the other victims were the 40-year-old pilot and a 36-year-old woman from the neighbouring state of New South Wales.

The forensic crash unit is investigating the incident with help from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

ATSB chief commissioner Angus Mitchell said it was a “remarkable achievement” there were not more deaths.

He said: “The second helicopter coming in to land has remarkably managed to land upright, and considering the damage that was done to the front left-hand section of that helicopter where the pilot was sitting, that’s a remarkable achievement.

“Whilst it has been very tragic that four people have lost their lives and many families are in mourning, we could have had a far worse situation.”

Mr Mitchell said the “evidence collection phase” of the ATSB’s investigation would take about six to eight weeks.

He added: “A final report will be published at the conclusion of the investigation; however, should any critical safety issues be identified at any stage during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so 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 said: “Sea World Helicopters is devastated by the tragic accident which happened on the Gold Coast on the 2nd January.

“Our deepest sympathy and condolences go out to all those involved over this very sad time. We are closed until further notice and will refund all tickets purchased.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his thoughts were with those affected by the incident.

“Australia is shocked by the news of the terrible and tragic helicopter incident today on the Gold Coast,” he said in a tweet.

“My thoughts are with all those affected, including first responders, and my deepest sympathies are with those who are grieving.”

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk tweeted that it was an “unthinkable tragedy”.

She said: “My deepest sympathies are with each of the families and everyone affected by this terrible accident.”