Two foreign tourists killed in helicopter crash on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

A 79-year-old man and 65-year-old women died when the chopper went down near a pontoon on the reef off popular tourist hotspot Airlie Beach

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 5:42pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2018, 5:42pm

A helicopter carrying American tourists crashed at a coral-viewing site on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, killing two passengers from Hawaii and injuring two others from Colorado, police said.

The helicopter pilot pulled one passenger from the wreckage after Wednesday’s crash but desperate attempts to revive the 65-year-old woman failed, Police Inspector Ian Haughton said Thursday.

A 79-year-old man also died despite bystanders’ attempts to resuscitate him, Haughton said.

A 34-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman were taken to the Australian mainland for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, he said. All four tourists knew each other.

The five-seat, single-engine Eurocopter EC120 Colibri crashed 65 kilometres (40 miles) northeast of the Whitsunday Islands near a pontoon that has underwater viewing chambers to see coral and is a popular tourist destination.

“It’s just gut-wrenching. It’s not good. My deepest sympathies goes out to those who lost their lives and those that were injured,” Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox told broadcaster ABC.

“I know most of the tourism operators in the Whitsundays personally and I know they all hold their passenger experience and safety as their number one priority, so it will be a sombre day for us in the Whitsundays.”

The US embassy in Australia said in a statement it was aware that two US citizens had died and was “providing all appropriate consular assistance”.

Whitsunday Air Services said the helicopter was approaching the pontoon to land when it crashed.

The company had suspended operations as it works with authorities to determine the cause of the crash.

“We are extremely saddened by this incident and our deepest condolences are with the families of all of the passengers,” the company said in a statement.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau confirmed a crash investigation was underway.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse