wo UK citizens who died in a mid-air crash between two helicopters in Australia were a couple on holiday in the country, authorities said.
Queensland Police said the pair, a 57-year-old woman and 65-year-old man, were among four people killed in the incident, which occurred on the Gold Coast of Queensland state on Monday.
A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said in a statement: “We are supporting the family of two British nationals who died in Australia and are in contact with the local authorities.”
The crash occurred around 2pm local time (4am GMT) in Main Beach.
The force said that “initial investigations” indicate that the collision occurred when one helicopter was taking off and the other was landing.
One of the helicopters was able to safely land on the sandbank, with only five of its six passengers suffering minor injuries.
However, the other helicopter crashed, killing four of those inside, and leaving a further three critically injured.
Police said the other victims included the 40-year-old pilot and a 36-year-old woman from the neighbouring state of New South Wales.
The forensic crash unit is investigating the incident with help from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).
ATSB chief commissioner Angus Mitchell said in a statement: “The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has commenced a transport safety investigation into the fatal mid-air collision involving two helicopters near Sea World on the Gold Coast, Queensland on Monday afternoon.
“During the evidence gathering phase of the investigation, ATSB investigators will examine the wreckage and map the accident site. Investigators will also recover any relevant components for further examination at the ATSB’s technical facilities in Canberra, gather any available recorded data for analysis, and interview witnesses and other involved parties.
A final report will be published at the conclusion of the investigation, however, should any critical safety issues be identified at any stage during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate safety action can be taken
“The ATSB anticipates publishing a preliminary report detailing basic information gathered during the investigation’s evidence collection phase in approximately 6-8 weeks.
“A final report will be published at the conclusion of the investigation, however, should any critical safety issues be identified at any stage during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate safety action can be taken.”
Sea World Helicopters, the helicopter company involved, said it would be closed “until further notice”.
A placeholder message on the company’s website said: “Sea World Helicopters is devastated by the tragic accident which happened on the Gold Coast on the 2nd January.
“Our deepest sympathy and condolences go out to all those involved over this very sad time. We are closed until further notice and will refund all tickets purchased.”
Earlier, Australia’s 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 today on the Gold Coast,” he said in a tweet.
“My thoughts are with all those affected, including first responders, and my deepest sympathies are with those who are grieving.”
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk tweeted that it was an “unthinkable tragedy”.
She said: “My deepest sympathies are with each of the families and everyone affected by this terrible accident.”