British couple killed in Gold Coast helicopter crash and pilot named as family tell of heartbreak

A British couple killed in a mid-air helicopter crash on Australia’s Gold Coast were named on Tuesday.

Ron and Diane Hughes, aged 65 and 57 from Liverpool, were two of four people to die in the tragedy near a Sea World theme park on Monday.

Two helicopters collided less than 20 seconds after one took off from a sandbar and the other aircraft was landing at Main Beach.

The one carrying Mr and Mrs Hughes plummeted about 980 feet killing them, pilot Ash Jenkinson, 40, who grew up in the West Midlands, and Australian mother Vanessa Tadros, 36.

Mother Vanessa Tadros was also killed in the tragedy
Mother Vanessa Tadros was also killed in the tragedy

Three others — including two children — were seriously injured.

Five of the six passengers in the second helicopter suffered only minor injuries as it landed upright on a sandbank.

Mr and Mrs Hughes married in August 2021 and had been on holiday visiting his daughter Jane Manns. She said in a statement to 7News: “Our family is heartbroken.”

All those killed and critically injured were in the ascending helicopter after its main rotor blade struck the cockpit of the second aircraft, also a Eurocopter EC130. Queensland police commissioner Katarina Carroll suggested that criminal charges could be filed.

Sea World Pilot Ash Jenkinson, who lost his life in the collision, pictured with his wife (Facebook)
Sea World Pilot Ash Jenkinson, who lost his life in the collision, pictured with his wife (Facebook)

Ms Carroll asked the public to be “patient” with an investigation led by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, adding: “We have got a lot of work to do. These are meticulous investigations that need to be done exceptionally well.”

Mr and Mrs Hughes were believed to be related to Mrs Tadros, who had boarded the aircraft with her son Nicholas, who survived but was fighting for his life.

The 10-year-old was pulled from the wreckage. Family members, including his father who saw the crash happen from the ground, were at his bedside.

The others on board were named as social worker Winnie De Silva, 33, and her nine-year-old son Leon.

Air safety commissioner Angus Mitchell said: “What we do need to know now is what was occurring inside those two cockpits at the time.”

Mr Mitchell said the second helicopter’s landing was a “remarkable achievement” given that it was damaged “where the pilot was sitting”.

 (Ron Hughes/Facebook)
(Ron Hughes/Facebook)

“We are very fortunate that we’re not standing here with far more deaths,” he told reporters. Mr Jenkinson, an experienced Sea World pilot, was described as a “big guy with a big heart”.

He had helped with recovery efforts after devastating floods in Lismore, New South Wales, last year. A spokesman for Sea World Helicopters 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.” Village Roadshow Theme Parks, which operates Sea World, said it offered its “deepest condolences to all those impacted”.

Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese tweeted that the country had been shocked, writing: “My thoughts are with all those affected, including first responders, and my deepest sympathies are with those who are grieving.”