Survivors of a fatal mid-air collision involving two helicopters have praised their ‘hero’ pilot for landing their plane safely, as dramatic new footage shows them being rescued from the accident.

Photos show Marie and Edward Swart and Elmarie and Riaan Steenberg, two couples from New Zealand, evacuated from the plane to the ground after the crash on the Australian Gold Coast on January 2.

Four people, including a British couple and a pilot, were killed in the crash when the two helicopters collided while in the air.

The four people who died were together in one of the helicopters, containing seven people, which crashed on a beach.

Photo: Edward Swart, Marle Swart, Riaan Steenberg and Elmarie Steenberg

The second helicopter, containing six people including the Swarts and Steenbergs, was landed upright by pilot Michael James despite sustaining significant damage in the collision.

Five of the passengers in the second helicopter were slightly injured, while the sixth was unharmed.

In a joint statement, the Swarts and the Steenbergs paid tribute to their pilot.

They said: “Our pilot, Michael James. You are our hero. You landed the helicopter safely and kept bystanders and us safe.

“We are eternally grateful to you.”

The four survivors also thanked emergency services personnel, passers-by who ran to help and staff at a local hotel who also came to their aid after the crash.

The aftermath of a helicopter crash on the Gold Coast
The aftermath of a helicopter crash on the Gold Coast

They also paid tribute to those who died in the collision, saying: “We want to express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the injured, deceased and their families.

“Our hearts are deeply saddened by the loss.

“It has been traumatic for us as survivors, and we cannot imagine the terrible sadness their families and loved ones must feel.”

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A British couple have been named among four killed in the accident, which took place near Sea World in the state of Queensland.

Holidaymakers Diane and Ron Hughes, 57 and 65, were from Liverpool and married in 2021.

Diane and Ron Hughes
Diane and Ron Hughes

Mr. and Mrs. Hughes were on board the helicopter with seven people on board.

Pilot, 40, Ashley Jenkinson, who lived in the Gold Coast area but was originally from Birmingham, and a 36-year-old woman, also died.

A 10-year-old boy is in critical condition, while a 33-year-old woman and a nine-year-old boy are seriously injured.

Australian Transport Safety Board chief commissioner Angus Mitchell said the incident was a “tragic start to the new year”.

Driver Ashley Jenkinson Photo: Ritchie Gregg
Driver Ashley Jenkinson Photo: Ritchie Gregg

He explained that the take-off helicopter’s main rotors collided with the landing helicopter about 200 m in the air, causing extensive damage to the nose section.

In the process, the rotor blade and gearbox separated from the main body of the aircraft.

Mr Mitchell told reporters: ‘We are very lucky not to be here with many more deaths.

Sea World Helicopters, a separate company from the theme park, expressed condolences, saying it was “devastated” and cooperating with the investigation.

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