A couple from the North West who were killed in a mid-air helicopter crash in Australia have been named and pictured.
Ron and Diane Hughes, 65 and 57, died after the helicopter they were in collided with another at a tourist hotspot on the Gold Coast known as Main Beach, near Sea World. The fatal incident took place at around 2pm on Monday (January 2), the Mirror reports.
Mr and Mrs Hughes were from Liverpool and married in 2021. They were holidaying in Australia at the time of the tragedy, reported 7News.com.au.
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An FCDO spokesperson earlier said: "We are supporting the family of two British nationals who died in Australia and are in contact with the local authorities."
The pilot, named locally as 40-year-old Ash Jenkinson, is also reported to have died at the scene alongside three passengers, Mr and Mrs Hughes and 36-year-old Vanessa Tadros from New South Wales.
Ms Tadros' 10-year-old son Nicholas was taken to hospital in a critical condition as were Winnie De Silva, aged 33, and her nine-year-old son Leon, it is reported.
Queensland Police said one of the choppers managed to successfully land on a sandbank, and the other crashed while containing seven people. Footage of the crash showed a helicopter shortly after take-off being clipped by another aircraft flying over the water.
Dan Hargreaves, who was at a café overlooking Seaworld at the time of the crash, told the Mirror how he heard a 'loud bang like a big gunshot'.
© Facebook/The MirrorAsh Jenkinson, chief pilot for Sea World Helicopters, died in the collision
He said: "I saw the more damaged helicopter going down and hit the sand moments afterwards. It all happened in a matter of seconds, and was business as usual before that."
Mr Hargreaves, who is local to the area, says he sees many helicopters operating tours there on a daily basis. He added: "Luckily no people were below the crash when it happened, as far as I could tell. Both helicopters ended up on an empty sandbank.
"There were hundreds of people on my side of the water that saw it too. Everyone was just looking on in shock unable to do anything. As many people that were near seemed to rush over, you could see them getting off jet skis and running over. Honestly it was traumatic and just devastating for the people involved."
One helicopter landed safely on a sandbank but debris from the other was spread across an area which police described as difficult to access. Passengers in the other helicopter, which lost its windscreen in the crash, were also receiving medical assistance.
© APEmergency workers inspect a helicopter at a collision scene near Seaworld
Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said the helicopter that was taking off was in the air for less than 20 seconds. “After the collision, it was a matter of seconds before it’s hit the ground,” he told reporters. "So it has unfolded very quickly.”
The ATSB has started an investigation into the crash and is piecing together what happened. Sea World Helicopters, a separate company from the theme park, expressed its condolences and said it was cooperating with the authorities handling the crash investigation.
In a statement, it said: "We and the entire flying community are devastated by what has happened and our sincere condolences go to all those involved and especially the loved ones and family of the deceased."
The company did not confirm if it operated one or both helicopters involved in the crash, saying it would not comment further because of the investigation.