Four Dead in Australian Helicopter Midair

 - January 2, 2023, 7:40 AM
Two Airbus EC130B4 helicopters operated by Gold Coast Helicopter dba Sea World Helicopters collided at a heliport near the theme park in Australia. (Photo: Gold Coast Helicopters)

At least four are dead and three more critically injured after the midair collision of a pair of Airbus EC130B4 tour helicopters near the Sea World Marine Park in Main Beach, Queensland, Australia, on Monday. The accident occurred at 1:59 p.m. local time. 

Video from a variety of broadcast news and social media sources shows the helicopters collided while one—registered as VH-XKQ—was ascending after takeoff and the other—VH-XH9—was descending for landing. The helicopters were approaching each other perpendicularly. 

The ascending helicopter sliced through the windscreen of the descending helicopter. The pilot of the descending helicopter executed an emergency landing on a nearby sand bank. The Impact also caused the separation of the aft portion of the tail boom, including its anti-torque Fenestron, of the ascending helicopter sending that aircraft down onto the same sand bank, with the main body of the wreckage coming to rest inverted.

All of the fatalities and critical injuries were reported by authorities to be aboard the ascending helicopter. Six were aboard the descending helicopter. All six aboard that helicopter are also hospitalized with what are described as non-life-threatening injuries related to shrapnel from windscreen debris. A police spokesman said the location and characteristics of the sand bank made removal of the survivors “difficult.” 

The helicopters were both painted black in the Sea World livery and were registered in November. They were being operated by Sea World Helicopters, an entity described by the parent corporation of the theme park—Village Roadshow Theme Parksas “an independent professional operator.” The Australia Transport Safety Bureau is investigating.