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Tourists killed as copter goes down in Whitsundays

March 23, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Tourism Whitsundays has issued a statement following the death of two American tourists, part of a tour party travelling in a Whitsunday Air Services helicopter which crashed in the sea near Hardy Reef Pontoon on Wednesday.

A 79-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman died and three other people – the 35-year-old male pilot, and a man and woman – were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. ABC News reported that all the passengers were Americans and knew each other.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) investigators headed to the crash site yesterday.

An ATSB statement said: “At approximately 1543 EST, the helicopter was on approach to land on the pontoon when it collided with the water.

“A team of four Transport Safety Investigators have been deployed to the accident location to commence the evidence collection phase of the investigation. There, investigators will interview witnesses, examine any available recorded data, review operational and maintenance records and technical documentation amongst other investigation activities.”

Tourism Whitsundays chief executive, Craig Turner, said: “Following the tragic incident that occurred yesterday afternoon at the reef, I would like to express my sincere condolences to those directly affected by the incident.

“I’d also like to praise the quick-thinking actions of those that helped at the scene. At this point, I am not in a position to make any further comment, as it is an ongoing investigation and it would be inappropriate for me to say anything further at this time.

“Again, our thoughts are with the families and those affected by this tragic incident.”

Whitsunday Air Services said the accident occurred as the helicopter was on final approach for a landing at the pontoon, about 65 kilometres northeast of the Whitsunday Islands.

“We are extremely saddened by this incident and our deepest condolences are with the families of all of the passengers,” the company said in a statement.

“Whitsunday Air Services is continuing to work with the Queensland Police, the ATSB and CASA to assist with their investigations.”

In the meantime, the company has suspended operations.

ABC News noted that the crash came a day after the ATSB released a report into an incident in November, in which a helicopter operated by the same company, Whitsunday Air Services, ditched off Hamilton Island.

Wednesday’s crash comes three months after another Australian tourism aviation tragedy, the crash of a Sydney Seaplanes aircraft on New Year’s Eve with the death of all six aboard: five British tourists and the pilot. The seaplane made a seemingly inexplicable right-hand turn into Jerusalem Bay near the town of Cowan, north of Sydney, and nosedived into the sea.

Written by Peter Needham

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