Queensland state police say two helicopters collided about 300 meters in the air on Monday afternoon as one was landing and another taking off near Sea World on Australia’s Gold Coast.
The helicopter that was taking off crashed, killing four of the seven aboard, including 40-year-old pilot Ashley Jenkinson and two visitors from the United Kingdom.
A second helicopter carrying six people landed on a nearby sandbank, with five people suffering minor injuries.
Australian Transport Bureau (ATB) chief commissioner Angus Mitchell said the safe landing prevented an even worse catastrophe.
“So whilst it has been very tragic that four people have lost their lives and many families are mourning this morning, we could have had a far worse situation here and the fact that one helicopter has managed to land has been quite remarkable,” said Mitchell at a news conference on Tuesday.
Authorities are yet to name the others who died: a 57-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man from the United Kingdom, who were a married couple, and a 36-year-old woman from the Australian state of New South Wales.
The British High Commission did not immediately respond to requests for comment by email and phone.
The three survivors from the crashed helicopter, including two boys ages 9 and 10, and a 33-year-old woman, were taken to a hospital with serious injuries. The 10-year-old is in a critical condition. A 33-year-old and 9-year-old were seriously hurt, authorities say.
The ATB has launched an investigation into the crash alongside local police and expects a preliminary report within eight weeks.
Sea World Helicopters, which operated the aircraft involved in the crash, is independent of Sea World owner Village Roadshow Theme Parks and is closed until further notice, according to a statement on its website. Sea World was open on Tuesday.
By Lewis Jackson