Chilling video has emerged from inside the cockpit of one of two helicopters involved in a fatal mid-air collision in Australia – as a passenger taps the pilot in the arm to warn him of the impending disaster.
The footage obtained by 7 News shows the tourist in the back seat of the descending chopper trying to alert pilot Michael James while pointing ahead.
James turns towards the passenger, who then braces for impact with the other helicopter on Monday afternoon near Main Beach on Australia’s Gold Coast.
In addition to the pilot, the helicopter was carrying Riaan and Elmarie Steenberg, and Marle and Edward Swart, all from Auckland, New Zealand, and another unnamed passenger, the outlet reported.
Miraculously, they all survived with minor injuries after the windshield shattered, sending glass shards through the cabin.
However, four people in the other aircraft were killed after it slammed into a sandbar — pilot Ash Jenkinson, 40, UK couple Ron and Diane Hughes, 65 and 57, and Vanessa Tadros, a 36-year-old mom from Sydney.
“Yes, we were in the helicopter crash, I am still in the hospital in the Gold Coast, recovering from my injuries” Elmarie, a real estate agent, wrote on Facebook. “All I can say is thank you to God for sparing all of us.”
The couple’s son, Enrico, thanked James for managing to land the chopper after the collision.
“Thx to the pilot for saving my parents from the crash and all prayers to the family who lost their loved ones,” he wrote on Instagram.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said the other helicopter had taken off and was in the air for less than 20 seconds before the accident.
“After the collision, it was a matter of seconds before it hit the ground. So it has unfolded very quickly,” he told reporters, 7 News reported.
Mitchell said the main rotor blade of the helicopter that was taking off apparently struck the cockpit of the other chopper as it was descending.
“Exactly whether that was the very first point of impact we’re yet to determine,” he reportedly said. “But that in itself has led to the main rotor in the gearbox separating from the main helicopter, which then had no lift and has fallen heavily to the ground.”
James managed to keep his helicopter upright after landing the stricken craft.
“We could’ve had a far worse situation here,” Mitchell said. “The fact that one helicopter has been able to land has been remarkable.”
The two choppers, which were operated by Sea World Helicopters, were carrying a total of 13 people, including the pilots.
Three other passengers in the crashed chopper were badly hurt.
Tadros’ 10-year-old son Nicholas remained hospitalized in critical condition.
Her husband, Simon, has asked for prayers for their boy, who has undergone multiple surgeries.
“I do ask that if everyone can please say a prayer for Nicky, so he can wake up and make a good recovery,” he wrote in social media, the Daily Mail reported.
“He is in an induced coma on a life support machine to help him breathe (sic). He is in a very serious and critical state. I’m asking for all your prayers to bring my little man back to me.” Simon added.
Also hospitalized are Winnie de Silva, 33, of Geelong, and her 9-year-old son, Leon.
De Silva, who is originally from Kenya, said that just 20 seconds after take-off she heard a “loud bang” and felt shaking as the main rotor blades ripped through the cockpit of the second helicopter.
“I could see the pilot pressing all these buttons, stressed out – he didn’t know what to do. I don’t remember much [after that] but everyone was trembling and worried,’ she told the Herald Sun.
As the Eurocopter EC130 plummeted, she said she grabbed Leon’s hand and squeezed it tightly.
“The only thing I could see was death in my eyes. I didn’t want to see death in my eyes so I closed them and held my son’s hand beside me,” De Silva told the paper.
The woman suffered broken legs, severe injuries to her left knee, a badly broken right shoulder and a shattered collarbone.
Her son suffered a fractured skull, brain trauma and facial injuries and is in an induced coma at Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane.
The accident remains under investigation.