One helicopter appeared to take off and the other landed when they collided near Sea World theme park in Queensland.
Two helicopters have collided at an Australian tourist hotspot, killing four passengers and seriously injuring three others in a crash that drew emergency response from beachgoers enjoying the water during the southern summer.
One helicopter appeared to be taking off and the other landing when they collided Monday afternoon near the Sea World theme park in Main Beach, a northern Gold Coast beach, Gary Worrell, acting superintendent of the Queensland State Police, said. during a press conference.
“Those two planes, when they collided, crash-landed and landed on the sandbar just outside the Sea World resort,” said Gary Worrell.
“As a result, four people died today,” he said. “Three others are in critical condition in hospital.”
One helicopter landed safely on a sandbank, but the debris of the other was scattered in an area police said was difficult to access. The dead and three seriously injured were all passengers in the crashed helicopter.
“The public and the police tried to remove the people and they started with first aid and tried to get those people to safety from an airplane that was upside down,” Worrell said.
“[People on] jet skis, family boats, ordinary members of the public rushed to help these people.
Passengers in the other helicopter, which lost its windshield in the crash, are also receiving medical attention.
Footage from the crash showed one helicopter being clipped shortly after takeoff by another helicopter flying over the water.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the accident was an “unthinkable tragedy”.
“My deepest condolences go out to each of the families and everyone affected by this terrible accident,” she tweeted.
What happened on the Gold Coast today is an unthinkable tragedy. My deepest condolences go out to each of the families and everyone affected by this terrible accident.
— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) January 2, 2023
Sea World Helicopters, a separate company from the theme park, expressed its condolences and said it was cooperating with authorities handling the crash investigation.
“We and the entire flying community are devastated by what has happened and our sincere condolences go out to all involved and especially the loved ones and family of the deceased,” the statement said.
The company did not confirm whether it operated one or both of the helicopters involved in the crash, saying in the statement it would not comment further due to the investigation.
A witness named John told Melbourne radio station 3AW that Sea World customers heard the crash.
He said theme park staff moved quickly to seal off the areas closest to the crash.
“There was a huge, huge bang,” he said. “It was just huge. I’m not sure if it was the propellers or whatever that crashed into each other. But there was a poor lady and her son in tears at the helipad.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Constable Angus Mitchell said an investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing.
Queensland Ambulance Service previously said 13 people were being assessed for injuries.
The Gold Coast region is busiest in January, the peak time for Australian summer holidays.