Family of British man killed in Australian horror helicopter crash 'heartbroken' by tragedy

3 January 2023, 06:00 | Updated: 4 January 2023, 06:31

Married couple Ron and Diane Hughes
Married couple Ron and Diane Hughes. Picture: Facebook

By Kit Heren

The daughter of a British man killed alongside his wife when the helicopter they were travelling in crashed on Australia's Gold Coast have said they are "heartbroken".

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Ron and Diane Hughes, aged 65 and 57, were killed when two helicopters collided in mid-air on Monday afternoon in front of hundreds of shocked onlookers.

In a statement to media Jane Manns said: "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."

It comes after Ms Hughes' brother said that the family was "humbled" by the "love and support" they had been given after the tragedy.

Dave Boyce wrote on Facebook: "For those who don’t know my sister and her husband were involved in the helicopter crash on the Gold Coast yesterday.

"We would also like to thank you all for the love and support we have received. We are truly humbled at this heartbreaking time."

Two UK citizens among four killed in mid-air helicopter crash in Australia

Vanessa Tadros is also among the dead
Vanessa Tadros is also among the dead. Picture: Facebook

Pilot Ash Jenkinson, 40, who grew up in Birmingham before moving to Australia and recently became a father, was the third victim alongside the Hughes.

Australian Vanessa Tadros, 36, also died when the helicopter she was taking off in collided with a second helicopter coming into land, plummeting onto the sand dune below near tourist attraction Sea World.

Her young son was pulled from the wreckage and is currently in a critical condition in hospital. He does not know his mother has died, the MailOnline has reported.

Two other passengers were rushed to hospital, including a nine-year-old boy.

Of the six people in the second helicopter, five had minor injuries and the other was totally unharmed.

The victims of the crash, which took place when two helicopters collided on the Gold Coast at around 2pm local time, in a month when the region is at its busiest, have not yet been named by authorities.

Married couple Ron and Diane Hughes
Married couple Ron and Diane Hughes. Picture: Facebook

One helicopter appeared to have been taking off and the other landing when they collided near the Sea World theme park at Main Beach, a northern beach on the Gold Coast, Queensland state police acting inspector Gary Worrell said. The helicopters were operated by a different company from Sea World.

Investigators are now examining the scene to work out the details of what happened in the collision.

Mr and Mrs Hughes, from Merseyside, got married in August 2021 and were on holiday at the time of the collision. They are thought to be related to Ms Tadros.

Ash Jenkinson died in the collision
Ash Jenkinson died in the collision. Picture: Facebook

All three were on board the helicopter piloted by Mr Jenkinson, who was taking them on a trip to show off views of the area.

Mr Jenkinson leaves behind his wife Kosha and a son born in September 2021. One of his friends paid tribute to him as a "top guy, top gun and best dad."

Ritchie Gregg said: "I heard [about the crash] at ten past two. So I sent the message and was waiting for an answer.'When he and Kosha had their son [in September 2021] he was the most excited dad.

"[Kosha] is very silent, she's in shock Kayden… would probably be asking where dad is. He added that 'family was his biggest thing' and he had just got married to Kosha in October."

Mr Jenkinson piloted one of the helicopters
Mr Jenkinson piloted one of the helicopters. Picture: Facebook

Mr Gregg said: "Ash had the biggest heart and was the happiest guy. When he'd finished work flying he'd be straight home to see his boy."

Mr Gregg said that when he heard about the crash he sent Mr Jenkinson a message asking if he was involved.

He asked: "Hope that wasn't you?", adding that he "heard at ten past two. So I sent the message and was waiting for an answer."

Describing the aftermath of the crash, police inspector Mr Worrell said: "Members of the public and police tried to remove the people and they commenced first aid and tried to get those people to safety from an airframe that was upside down.

"Jet Skis, family boaters, ordinary members of the public rushed to assist these people."

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A witness named John told Melbourne radio station 3AW that patrons at Sea World heard the crash, and staff moved swiftly to close off areas closest to the crash."There was a massive, massive bang," he said.

"It was just huge."I'm not sure if it was the propellers or whatever hitting against each other. But there was this poor lady and her son near the helipad in tears."

An FCDO spokesperson said: "We are supporting the family of two British nationals who died in Australia and are in contact with the local authorities."

Sea World Helicopters 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."

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Village Roadshow Theme Parks, which runs Sea World, gave its 'deepest condolences to all those impacted" by the tragedy.

The company added: "While Sea World Helicopters is an independent professional operator, VRTP is working with emergency services and the authorities to provide every possible assistance."

"We are providing support to our team members who have been emotionally affected by the tragedy.

"As it is now a police investigation, we cannot provide any further information at this stage."

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said that the country was shocked by the 'news of the terrible and tragic' deaths.

He added: "My thoughts are with all those affected, including first responders, and my deepest sympathies are with those who are grieving."

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the accident was an "unthinkable tragedy".

"My deepest sympathies are with each of the families and everyone affected by this terrible accident," she said.