Families cheered and waved as a Sea World tour helicopter took off from the popular theme park moments before colliding in mid-air with another helicopter and crashing, tragically killing four people on board.
Three more passengers are fighting for their lives, and many others have been injured after the mid-air collision in front of hundreds of shocked tourists.
Debris fell over the Broadwater on the Gold Coast before the disabled plane spiraled into a sandbar around 2pm local time on Monday, while the second plane managed to regain control and land upright.
Video from the heliport shows a tourist and his young son watching the helicopter rise and then, within seconds, cross the path of the second plane, with the boy asking, “Is it going to crash?”
Witnesses rushed to the scene of the crash, just yards from the busy theme park and marina, and frantically called emergency services before extricating those inside the wreckage.
Queensland Ambulance confirmed four people were dead, three fighting for their lives and four others being rushed to hospital.
Three people are feared dead after two helicopters collided in mid-air near Sea World at the Gold Coast theme park as tourists looked on in horror.
Photos showed that at least one of the two helicopters was a Sea World helicopter tour aircraft.
Paramedics and police officers at the scene Monday afternoon (pictured)
Witnesses told Daily Mail Australia that one of the helicopters was about to land when it struck the rotor of the other plane taking off.
Emma Burch, another witness, had the same account of how the accident unfolded.
From what we saw, one was taking off and the other was landing. They hit each other,” he said.
A massive explosion was heard through the Broadwater resort park and then the hiss as the loser hit the water and broke apart.
It is awful. Everyone is in shock.
One of the helicopters crashed into the sandbar, leaving wreckage on the shore with its main rotor embedded in the sand some distance from the rest of the wreckage.
Four on board died, including the pilot, while three others, a woman and two young children, are in critical condition.
The other helicopter managed to land on a nearby sandbar, with six people on board, some of whom sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
The two helicopters involved in the collision can be seen on the sandbank, crashing into the sand and the other landing upright.
Marine Rescue ran onto the sandbar, seen in front of a helicopter with the Sea World logo
Lifeguards and police aboard one of several boats that arrived at the scene
Queensland Ambulance said there were 13 patients in total, six in one helicopter and seven in the other.
Marine Rescue Southport Volunteer Duty Captain Matt Fitzpatrick said three units were dispatched to the scene.
“There are several helicopters involved and we don’t know the status of those on board,” he said.
The photos showed that at least one of the two helicopters, the one that landed without crashing, was a Sea World helicopter.
The company issued a statement hours after the accident.
“Sea World Helicopters (SWH) has expressed its shock and condolences to the people involved in the Sea World Gold Coast helicopter crash, Broadwater in Southport this afternoon,” a Sea World Helicopters spokesperson said.
“We and the entire flight community are devastated by what happened and our deepest condolences go out to everyone involved and especially the loved ones and family of the deceased.
We are cooperating with all authorities, including the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) and the Queensland Police. As it is now a police investigation, we are unable to provide any further information at this time.
Paramedics transported a patient to a waiting helicopter for airlift to the hospital.
The front of the Sea World helicopter that remained upright was badly damaged.
The helicopter that took off is understood to have struck another helicopter above and then plummeted into the sand.
Witnesses expressed shock at the mid-air collision.
‘I heard an explosion and saw smoke coming from one of the helicopters. It was smoking and wobbling to the ground,” a witness told Daily Mail Australia.
‘One person was asking if it was part of the Sea World show.’
A distraught woman and child were seen at the helipad while part of the theme park was closed so patrons could not look towards the crash site.
Others said watching the accident unfold was “beyond horrible.”
My daughter saw them. People in both. She landed on the sand, not SeaWorld, thank goodness. Just praying for everyone,” said one.
“We heard a loud noise and saw pieces of debris flying,” another wrote online.
Tor Kumpel, a Gold Coast resident, was swimming in wide water with his wife when he witnessed the collision just after a helicopter took off.
‘It was just a helicopter that crashed. The one that was approaching. It was horrible to watch,” he told The Courier Mail.
‘The (pilot) who was in the other one that landed. They deserve a medal. It took them a while to stabilize, but they did it.
Blue Mountains resident Amii McDermot, 42, was in line for Sea World’s Vortex ride when she saw the accident unfold.
“There was debris everywhere, the tail fell off one of them and the helicopter fell to the ground at full speed.”
She said her two youngest children don’t realize what they saw, but her two oldest are pretty shocked.
Investigators rush to collect evidence before high tide covers the sandbar.
Officers scour the arena for any debris that may aid in the investigation of the cause.
Australia’s Transport Safety Office said an investigation into the collision has already begun.
“Transport safety investigators with experience in helicopter operations, maintenance and survivability engineering are deploying from ATSB’s Brisbane and Canberra offices and are expected to begin arriving at the crash site from Monday afternoon.” said ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell.
“During the evidence-gathering phase of the investigation, ATSB investigators will examine the wreckage and map the crash site.”
Investigators will also retrieve any relevant components for further examination at the ATSB’s technical facility in Canberra, collect available recorded data for analysis and interview witnesses and other involved parties.
The ATSB is asking any witnesses to the accident to contact them immediately.
Emergency services rushed to the wreckage in the hope of finding survivors, but all on board harbor grave fears.