Boy does not know his mum is dead after Sea World chopper tragedy

Harrowing details of helicopter crash emerge as killed British newlyweds and Sydney mum holidaying with family are identified – while her little boy doesn’t know she is dead as he fights for life

  • Sydney mother and British couple were killed in Sea World helicopter crash 
  • Pilot Ash Jenkinson, 40, was one of four killed when two choppers collided
  • He manned the Sea World copter that crashed on a sandbank in the Gold Coast
  • Mr Jenkinson, who is originally from the UK, had welcomed a son in September 
  • Family and friends have remembered him as a ‘Top Gun’ pilot with a ‘big heart’

A Sydney mother and a British couple have been identified as the final three of the four people killed in the horrific Sea World chopper crash.

Sydney mother Vanessa Tadros, 36, and British couple Ron, 65, and Diane Hughes, 57 died when a helicopter collided with another chopper near the Sea World theme park, on the Gold Coast, at 2pm on Monday. 

Pilot Ash Jenkinson, 40, originally from Birmingham in the UK, is the fourth person who was killed in the crash. 

Mrs Tadros is believed to be related to the British couple and had been holidaying with her family when she boarded the chopper with her 10-year-old son Nicholas while her husband stayed behind. 

Nicholas survived the crash but was left in a critical condition and has already undergone four surgeries since he was taken to hospital.

The young boy is still not aware that his mother has died as his devastated family remain by his bedside. 

Sydney mother Vanessa Tadros, 36, was killed while her 10-year-old son Nicholas survived the helicopter crash on Monday

British couple Ron, 65, and Diane Hughes, 57 died when a Sea World EC130 helicopter collided with another chopper mid-air and plummeted 30 metres near the Sea World theme park at 2pm on Monday

Sea World helicopters chief pilot Ash ‘Jenko’ Jenkinson, 40, died in the helicopter crash (pictured with his wife, Kosha)

Mrs Tadros is also known as Vanessa Geagea with tributes pouring in for the late mother.

‘R.I.P. cousin Vanessa Geagea. You passed away too soon in this horrific tragedy,’ a family member wrote on Facebook.

‘May God have mercy on you, Vanessa, yourself in heaven, and may God heal your son, O Lord, and grant him peace’.

Mr and Mrs Hughes had only been married for a little over the year after tying the knot in 2021.

A 33-year-old woman and a nine-year-old girl related to Mrs Tadros are also being treated for serious injuries.

The pilot of the second helicopter, which had five passengers on board, miraculously managed to land on a sand bar, with everyone aboard able to walk away. 

Queensland Police and ATSB Officers are now recovering the wreckage from the crash site.

Mr Jenkinson, a father who had instructed numerous novice pilots, had welcomed his first son to the world in September last year with his wife Kosha. 

One of Mr Jenkinson’s closest mates, Ritchie Gregg, says he was ‘a top guy, top gun and the best dad’ and that his 17-month-old son Kaiden ‘would probably be asking where dad is’ right now. 

Mr and Mrs Hughes had only been married for a little over the year after tying the knot in 2021

Mr and Mrs Hughes were among the four people killed in the helicopter crash on Monday

One of Jenkinson’s closest mates, Ritchie Gregg, sent a text message to Ash after learning about the tragedy on social media

Mr Gregg said he sent a message to Jenkinson when he heard from another of their mates via social media that there had been a crash, asking ‘hope that wasn’t you?’

‘I heard 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 Kaiden … would probably be asking where dad is.

‘They only got married in October,’ he explained.

‘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.

‘Family was his biggest thing,’ he said.

Mr Jenkinson welcomed his first child, a son, Kaiden, with his wife Kosha back in September last year

Another close friend, Andy Taylor said he discovered the horrifying news with everyone else, on social media.

‘I saw it come up on a post on social media,’ Mr Taylor told Sunrise.

‘I tried to ring Ash straight away. At first, the phone was dead and then went to the voicemail.

He described Mr Jenkinson as ‘a big guy with a big heart,’ who helped out during the height of the NSW Northern Rivers’ flood crisis last year.

‘He did a lot of charity work, we did the floods down in Ballina and saved a lot of people,’ Mr Taylor told Sunrise on Tuesday.

The pilot transported food, water and other essential items to flood survivors who were cut off from their community for days.

‘He is the best of the best. I don’t know what else to say.’ 

The main body of the destroyed helicopter is secured by workers from a Queensland towing company

The crashed chopper is lifted in the air as crews work to extract it from the sandbank as the tide sets in

The wreckage is carefully loaded onto the back of a truck as the Australian Transport Safety Bureau revealed initial findings from their investigation on Tuesday

A man is seen on the phone by a Sea World chopper as emergency services and officers from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigated the circumstances of the crash

The man inspects the interior of the wrecked Sea World helicopter on Tuesday as crews worked on recovering the remnants 

Mr Jenkinson was the chief pilot at Sea World helicopters and ‘loved’ his job, Mr Taylor said.

‘He was so good at what he did. He was on point, I don’t understand what’s happened,’ Mr Taylor said.

‘It was his life. It was everything to him.

‘I don’t think he had any other hobbies. That was it. That was everything for him.’

‘Above all he was a family man. He loved his family, loved his baby,’ Mr Taylor said.

‘His family was certainly first. Helicopter second. But they were the two passions of his life.’

Colleague Penny Wilson said Mr Jenkinson had ‘such golden of heart, cheeky sense of humour and always such a laugh to be around’.

‘An amazing pilot. Always so kind, helpful, and supportive. A true gentleman, and always willing to lend a hand,’ former colleague Lucy Kuhn said.

The heartbreaking accounts come as an eyewitness to the tragedy described the dramatic moment a young boy’s life was possibly saved when he couldn’t breathe in the immediate aftermath of the crash.

Gold Coast resident Travis Slatter was near the scene when he witnessed members of the public and Sea World staff scrambling to help possible survivors, including a ‘lady that put a tube in the boy’s throat to get him to breathe’.

Tributes have flown in for the ‘top gun’ helicopter pilot, with friends and family describing him as 

Mr Jenkinson was the chief pilot at Sea World helicopters and ‘loved’ his job, Mr Taylor said

Mr Slatter said the terrible scene ‘hit home with the young boy, after hearing him start to groan after the tube went in. 

‘It was a relief that there was some sign of life, I hope he pulls through, but he has a lot to deal with after what happened.

He also described the heroism of the surviving pilot in the crash, who friends told Daily Mail Australia is a few years older than Mr Jenkinson.

Mr Slatter credits the second pilot with having ‘saved a lot of lives today’ after watching his colleague Ash Jenkinson’s helicopter plunge to the ground.

‘To see him first hand and how cut up he was and for a second he it looked like he was going to drop out of the sky too, but managed to put it down is crazy,’ Mr Slatter posted on Facebook.

Mr Slatter also watched as members of the public and then Sea World staff and finally paramedics taking over, describing the heroics of ‘a girl in black swimmers, three men and a legend in a party pontoon’ helping the survivors.

Another man was ‘pouring water on all the fuel’, and other ‘people were trying CPR’.

‘It was chaotic but everyone put it together until the experts took over and gave everyone the best chance,’ Mr Slatter said. 

‘Everyone tried, even to hold sheets and towels over people.’

Ritchie Gregg, pictured second left, with Ash Jenkinson, left and two other mates on their flood rescue trip to Ballina and Korokai in norther NSW last year

Mr Jenkinson was a hero during the 2022 flood crisis on the Northern Rivers. Picture: Supplied

Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigators are probing the crash and have salvaged both helicopters from the sand bar.

ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said it appears that the main rotor of Mr Jenkinson’s aircraft, which was taking off, hit the second helicopter’s cockpit as it came in to land.

‘Now, exactly whether that was the very first point of impact – we’re yet to determine,’ he told reporters on Tuesday. 

‘But that in itself has led to the main rotor in the gearbox separating from the main (Mr Jenkinson’s) helicopter, which then had no lift and has fallen heavily to the ground.’

He said the helicopter that crashed had only been in the air for 20 seconds, but fell from a significant height. 

Mr Mitchell said it was ‘remarkable’ the second pilot had managed to land in the circumstances and the situation could have been far worse otherwise.

‘The presence of mind to be able to land that helicopter, particularly considering the damage that we know has occurred on that front left-hand seat of the helicopter, it does appear to have been a remarkable job to have got it down.’

‘What we do need to know is what was occurring in the cockpits at that time … what were the processes in place that are designed to protect helicopters in this situation,’ he said.   

‘(We will investigate) the weather at the time, to the tasking, to how long the helicopters had been operating that day, to how long the pilots had been flying, there’s a lot that goes into it,’ he said.

‘But exactly why this occurred, what was the range of visibility from both the pilots, what was happening inside the cabins at the time, they’re the things that will help us here … but it’s still very early stages in the investigating to start speculating.’

A preliminary report is expected to be published within eight weeks.

‘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,’ a spokesperson for Sea World Helicopters said.

The two helicopters seconds before impact. Picture: 9 NEWS

Village Roadshow Theme Parks offered its condolences to people impacted by the crash, with dozens of guests at Sea World witnessing it.

‘While Sea World Helicopters is an independent professional operator, VRTP is working with emergency services and the authorities to provide every possible assistance,’ the company said in a statement.

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

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk offered her condolences to all involved.

‘My deepest sympathies are with each of the families and everyone affected by this terrible accident,’ she tweeted.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia was shocked by the tragic incident on the Gold Coast.

‘My thoughts are with all those affected, including first responders, and my deepest sympathies are with those who are grieving,’ he tweeted.

The Gold Coast council has set up an area for people to leave flowers for victims, which was witnessed by hundreds of people.

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