Daughter of British newlyweds who died in Australia helicopter crash says family is ‘heartbroken’

The daughter of two UK nationals who died in a plane crash between two helicopters in Australia said: “Our family is heartbroken.”

UK newlyweds Ron and Diane Hughes, aged 65 and 57, have been named among the four killed after a mid-air helicopter crash near Sea World on the Gold Coast.

The couple, reportedly from Wirral, Merseyside, traveled to Australia to visit Mr Hughes’ daughter Jane Manns, her husband Ben Manns and their children.

Jane and Ben Manns said in a statement to 7NEWS: “Our family is devastated and we are still trying to contact friends and family to let them know.

“We ask that you respect our privacy during this devastating time.”

On Facebook, Mrs Hughes’ brother wrote: “We would also like to thank everyone for the love and support we have received. We are truly humble at this heartbreaking time.”

The accident happened around 14:00 local time (4:00 GMT) on Main Beach. Queensland Police said a “preliminary investigation” indicated the collision occurred as one helicopter was taking off and the other was landing.

Airport workers prepare to remove a crashed helicopter that collided with another helicopter on the Gold Coast (ABC/AFP via Getty Images)

Airport workers prepare to remove a crashed helicopter that collided with another helicopter on the Gold Coast (ABC/AFP via Getty Images)

One of the helicopters was able to land safely aground, with only five of the six occupants suffering minor injuries.

However, the second helicopter crashed, killing four inside and three others seriously injured.

Police said other victims included a 40-year-old pilot and a 36-year-old woman from the neighboring state of New South Wales.

The forensics team is investigating the incident with the help of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said it was a “remarkable achievement” that there were no more deaths.

He said: “The second helicopter landing amazingly managed to land vertically, and given the damage done to the front left side of this helicopter where the pilot was sitting, this is a remarkable achievement.

Flower Tributes at Broadwater Parklands on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (EPA)

Flower Tributes at Broadwater Parklands on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia (EPA)

“While it is very tragic that four people have lost their lives and many families are in mourning, we could have had a much worse situation.”

Mr Mitchell said the “evidence-gathering phase” of the ATSB’s investigation will take about six to eight weeks.

It added: “The final report will be released once the investigation is complete, however if any critical safety issues are identified at any stage of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify the relevant parties so that appropriate safety action can be taken.”

Sea World Helicopters, a committed helicopter company, said it would be closed “until further notice”.

The wreckage of two helicopters seen after the collision near Seaworld on the Gold Coast (REUTERS)

The wreckage of two helicopters seen after the collision near Seaworld on the Gold Coast (REUTERS)

A replacement message on the company’s website read: “Sea World Helicopters is devastated by the tragic accident that occurred off the Gold Coast on January 2.

“Our deepest sympathy and condolences go out to all those involved in this very sad time. We are closed until further notice and will refund all purchased tickets.”

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his thoughts were with those affected by the incident.

“Australia is shocked by the news of the terrible and tragic helicopter incident off the Gold Coast,” he tweeted.

“My thoughts are with everyone affected, including first responders, and my deepest sympathies are with those who are bereaved.”

A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Ministry said in a statement: “We support the family of two Britons who died in Australia and are in contact with the local authorities.”

Additional PA reports

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