Gold Coast helicopter fatal crash: New Zealander witnesses aircraft's plunge

By Jean Edwards of RNZ

A Christchurch woman has described her horror at witnessing two helicopters collide on Australia's Gold Coast, just a day after her son and his girlfriend took the same scenic flight.

Four people were killed and three others badly injured when the rotors of one Sea World helicopter that had just taken off collided with another helicopter coming into land near the theme park on Monday.

Four New Zealanders survived the crash after their helicopter landed on a sandbank.

Sue and Luigi Monaco were sitting at the beach near their Southport apartment when Sue heard a big bang and saw one of the helicopters plunge to the ground.

"I saw two helicopters and then next minute it looked like the tail had come off the main cabin and it just went straight down. Sand went up everywhere. I was trying to tell my husband but nothing was coming out of my mouth," she said.

"I was crying. It's horrible, I just watched them fall to their death."

Sue and Luigi Monaco
Sue and Luigi Monaco were sitting at the beach near their Southport apartment when two helicopters collided over Australia's Gold Coast on 2 January, 2022. Photo credit: Supplied via RNZ

Sue Monaco said she was incredibly relieved the crash did not happen a day earlier when her 24-year-old son Enrico and his girlfriend Keeta took their own Sea World helicopter ride.

Keeta, who declined to give her surname, said their five-minute flight was a great experience and neither of them had any safety concerns.

"It was the first time I had been on a helicopter, but it was a really smooth flight. [The pilot] was really great, we didn't have a bad experience, the landing and the take-off and everything was great," she said.

Enrico and Keeta spent Tuesday at Australia Zoo and were shocked to discover the helicopters had crashed when they later returned to Southport.

"We were planning to take the flight the day of the crash, but we were lucky and got squeezed in the day before. So it was just, s--t, that could have been us," she said.

"It's a gut-wrenching feeling, we're pretty grateful it wasn't us."

Enrico said he was shaken by the close call.

"To think that we were on the flight the day before was quite scary," he said.

"Our condolences go out to the families and Sea World because it's very sad."

Sue said it was hard to believe the helicopters collided in mid-air.

"We were watching all the boats going back and forth, and jet skis. You'd think there would be an accident with them, not a helicopter," she said.

Investigators are now trying to piece together what went wrong, as the families of the dead - helicopter pilot Ash Jenkinson, British couple Ron and Diane Hughes, and Sydney mother Vanessa Tadros - mourn their loss.

Tadros's 10-year-old son Nicholas, Geelong woman Winnie De Silva and her nine-year-old son Leon were the only survivors from the helicopter that crashed.