The crash occurred on Monday at 2pm local time near the Sea World theme park on the Gold Coast. Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell called the incident a “tragic start to the new year”.
Preliminary investigations into the collision have shown that one helicopter which contained seven people was taking off and collided with another which was coming in to land with six people on board.
The Chief Commissioner noted that the main rotors of the helicopter which was taking off hit the other helicopter around 200m in the air which damaged the front section.
As a result, the main rotor blade and gearbox detached from the main body of the helicopter.
Despite the damage to the front left section of the landing aircraft where the pilot was sat, it “remarkably” landed upright.
Mr Mitchell added that the ATSB is continuing to collate evidence including CCTV and video footage taken by members of the public.
“What we need to know now is what was occurring inside them two cockpits at the time”, he said.
He continued: “We know the take-off and landing are critical phases of any flight where the cognitive workload of pilots are at their greatest.
“We will get what we can from those two helicopters to try and get a better picture of what happened and ultimately look at the processes that were in place that are designed to protect helicopters in this situation.”
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Three people were left critically injured with “multi-system trauma” and six others received minor injuries which were largely caused by glass and were taken to hospital.
Authorities are continuing to investigate the cause of the crash and Sea World Helicopters, a company separate from the theme park, said it would fully cooperate with the investigation.
The helicopter company said it was “devastated” by the incident and gave its condolences to those involved.
They said: “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.”