The family of a British couple killed in a mid-air crash between two helicopters on Australia’s Gold Coast have said they are “struggling to come to terms with our loss”.
Diane and Ron Hughes, from Neston, Cheshire, died in the collision at around 2pm local time – 4am GMT – on Monday in Main Beach, not far from Sea World in the state of Queensland.
Queensland Police said the pilot and three passengers had died at the scene, including a pair travelling from the UK – a 57-year-old woman and a 65-year-old man – and a woman, 36, from Glenmore Park, New South Wales.
In a statement to the Liverpool Echo, the family paid tribute to the “generous, loyal, fun-loving couple who had a zest for life”.
“We are deeply saddened and still in a state of shock from the events that unfolded on Monday,” they said.
“Ron and Diane arrived last week, visiting our family on the Gold Coast after being separated by Covid for the last few years.
“They were the most generous, loyal, fun-loving couple who had a zest for life and were loved and adored by everyone they met.
“Tragedies like this happen to ‘other people’ and we are all struggling to come to terms with our loss.
“They leave a huge hole in our family and will be survived by parents, brothers, sons, daughters, and their cheeky grandkids.”
The family thanked the first responders, emergency services and Sea World staff for their efforts to save the couple.
They also said their thoughts were with everyone impacted and that they were praying for the recovery of survivors still in hospital.
“Finally, the outpouring of love from our friends, family and the Gold Coast community has touched us all and will never be forgotten,” they added.
Queensland Police said “initial investigations” indicated 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 five of its six passengers suffering only minor injuries.
But the other helicopter crashed, killing four of those inside, and leaving a further three critically injured.
A 10-year-old boy from Glenmore Park suffered critical injuries in the incident, while a 33-year-old woman and a nine-year-old boy, both travelling from Geelong West, Victoria, suffered serious injuries.
A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in the UK said: “We are supporting the family of two British nationals who died in Australia and are in contact with the local authorities.”