American tourists visiting the Great Barrier Reef were killed in a helicopter crash on Wednesday when the aircraft plunged into the water.
The helicopter crash that claimed the lives of two American tourists was from an aircraft operated by Whitsunday Air Services, and was headed to a popular viewing pontoon along the reef around 40 miles north of Whitsunday Islands.
Spectators on the pontoon looked on in horror as the helicopter crash hit the water and the pilot tried desperately to pull the American tourists from the wreckage. His efforts were unsuccessful, unfortunately, with both tourists losing their lives with the crash landing.
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In a news conference regarding the helicopter crash, Inspector Ian Haughton of the Queensland Police offered his condolences to those affected by the crash that killed the two American tourists, stating that “this is a traumatic experience for anyone in the situation there.”
During the news conference, the police stated that the American tourists killed in the crash were a 65-year-old woman sitting in the front passenger seat as well as a 79-year-old man in the rear of the craft. The tourists have not been identified, but they are known to be residents of Hawaii and are assumed to have known each other.
While the two American tourists passed away, the pilot and two other American passengers – a 33-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man, both residents of Colorado – survived the crash with minor injuries. Both of the surviving passengers knew the American tourists that were killed, but as of the time of this story, the police have not confirmed how. Considering the age gap, there’s a possibility that they were related – perhaps as children of the deceased – but that’s pure speculation at this point.
During the news conference, Inspector Haughton confirmed that the pilot, who was apparently quite experienced, tried to rescue the older woman to no avail. The helicopter crash happened on the final approach for landing at the Hardy Reef viewing pontoon, and was apparently a routine flight gone wrong.
It has been a rough couple of months for Whitsunday Air Services, as this is the second accident that has happened recently. Back in November, a Whitsunday Air Services helicopter with three passengers on board had an accident near Hamilton Island.
“Something went wrong, and the consequences are tragic,” said Haughton. “An independent, robust and transparent investigation is currently underway…There’s been a number of people involved: the ferry service, the rescue helicopter from Townsville, the emergency services that attended…But for those people that were on board you couldn’t begin to imagine the impact on those people”
The investigation into the helicopter crash that killed the two American tourists will involve Australia’s air transportation safety bureau, and will attempt to uncover the helicopter’s service record in hopes of understanding what caused the crash. Whether it was pilot error, bad weather, or any number of other factors remains to be seen.