Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Eurocopter EC120B Colibri, VH-WII, Whitsunday Air Services: Fatal accident occurred March 21, 2018 near Hardy Reef pontoon, north-east of Hamilton Island, Whitsunday Islands, Queensland



Worsening weather in Queensland's Whitsundays region could hamper efforts to retrieve a helicopter which crashed this week, killing an American couple.

Peter and Sue Hensel, aged 79 and 65, had been on their dream honeymoon when the tourist helicopter they were travelling in crashed into waters near Queensland's Whitsunday Islands on Wednesday.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is assessing the recovery of the EC120 helicopter to help piece together what led to the crash.

The ATSB says no firm date has been set to try to raise the wreckage and weather is being monitored for potential impact on plans.

"A decision on whether or not the ATSB requires the helicopter wreckage to be recovered as part of its investigation will be made in the coming days," the bureau said in a statement to AAP on Friday.

Police are speaking to witnesses on Hamilton Island as they continue to assist the ATSB with the investigation and recovery of the aircraft.

A preliminary report will be published in late April.

Operator Whitsunday Air Services has suspended all operations and will work with authorities to determine the cause of the crash.

The crash happened a day after the ATSB released its findings into a November incident involving the company, in which no one was injured.

Pete and Sue Hensel married in December and were on their honeymoon in Queensland when they were killed in a helicopter crash.


Peter and Sue Hensel were newlyweds enjoying their Australian honeymoon when the helicopter they were in crashed into waters near Queensland's Whitsunday Islands, killing them and injuring three others on board.

The couple from Hawaii, Mr. Hensel, 79, and his wife, 65, had married in December and traveled to Queensland on their dream honeymoon when the Eurocopter EC120B Colibri they were in went down near a Great Barrier Reef pontoon on Wednesday.

It is understood Mrs. Hensel's 33-year-old daughter and her partner, 34, were also on the helicopter and escaped with minor injuries.

Mr. Hensel's friend of about 25 years Vern Ungerecht said the couple was 'so happy'.

"They were just so excited to be able to go on their honeymoon trip and it would have been a new experience for them," he said.

Mr. Ungerecht and the Hensels were both members of the Kona Elks Lodge and had shared many meals together at the club.

"They would come to the dinners and socialised quite a bit ... they had a lot of friends," he said.

"It was such a good thing for both of them and we were all so happy for them."

Mr. Ungerecht described Mr. Hensel as 'pretty quiet' and a sports fan while his new wife was "very bubbly and outgoing".

"They were very much in love and having such a good time and having so much fun," he said.

Kona Elks Lodge member Ronald Cole broke the sad news to fellow club members via its Facebook page.

"They were newlywed, and we know them as Pete and Sue, and were frequent visitors of the lodge and usually sitting at the Mauka end of the bar," he wrote, sharing a picture of the happy couple.

The club intends to hold a memorial to honour the Hensels.

Investigators on Friday will try to recover the wreckage of the helicopter.

Four investigators - two from Brisbane and two from Canberra - were on their way to the scene at Hardy Reef, Australian Transport Safety Bureau chief commissioner Greg Hood said on Thursday.

They will recover and examine the wreckage, interview witnesses, and examine flight data and training and maintenance logs.

The 35-year-old pilot, who also escaped serious injury and pulled Mrs Hensel from the helicopter, while others performed CPR on both victims under instruction by phone from emergency services officers.

"It's absolutely essential in this type of accident that we get as many perspectives we possibly can from any witnesses," Mr. Hood said as he asked for anyone who had seen anything to come forward.

A preliminary report will be published in late April.

Operator Whitsunday Air Services has suspended all operations and will work with authorities to determine the cause of the crash.

The crash happened a day after the ATSB released its findings into a November incident involving the company, in which no one was injured.

Original article ➤  https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au



This Eurocopter EC120B Colibri was involved in a fatal crash at Hardy Reef in the Whitsundays.


Collision with water involving Eurocopter EC120B, VH-WII, Hardy Reef, Qld., on March 21, 2018

Investigation number: AO-2018-026

Summary

The ATSB is investigating the collision with water of Eurocopter EC120B, VH-WII, which occurred near the Hardy Reef pontoon, north-east of Hamilton Island, Whitsunday Islands, Queensland on March 21, 2018.

At approximately 1543 EST, the helicopter was on approach to land on the pontoon when it collided with the water.

A team of four Transport Safety Investigators have been deployed to the accident location to commence the evidence collection phase of the investigation. There, investigators will interview witnesses, examine any available recorded data, review operational and maintenance records and technical documentation amongst other investigation activities.

The evidence collection phase will also define the size and scope of the investigation and determine the expected timeframe for the completion of a final report.

Preliminary information about this accident is expected to be released in late April 2018 to provide an overview of the evidence collected.

Should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate safety action can be taken.

Witnesses are encouraged to contact the ATSB, through our webpage www.atsb.gov.au/witness or phone 1800 992 986.

https://www.atsb.gov.au



The pilot of a helicopter that crashed and sank near the Whitsundays Islands pulled one of his passengers from the wreckage, though desperate attempts to revive her failed.

The 65-year-old woman died along with a 79-year-old man, both from Hawaii, when the Airbus H120, owned by Whitsunday Air Services, crashed near the Hardy Reef pontoon off Hamilton Island.

All four passengers on the helicopter were American and known to each other.

The other two - a 34-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman from Colorado – and the pilot were taken to the mainland for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Police District Inspector Ian Haughton said the 35-year-old pilot pulled the woman from the helicopter, while those on the scene performed CPR on both victims under the instruction of emergency services.

It is believed bystanders risked their own safety to try and save them.

"This is a traumatic experience for any involved in the situation," Insp Haughton said.

The crash follows another incident involving a helicopter operated by the same company late last year.

On November 8, 2017, the pilot of a Robinson R44 helicopter, operated by Whitsunday Air Services, ditched about 49km north of Hamilton Island Airport with three passengers on board.

The pilot deployed the aircraft's emergency flotation system and all onboard were were rescued uninjured.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that the helicopter had experienced a "partial engine power loss", the reason for which could not be determined as the helicopter later sank. No one was found to be at fault.

Whitsunday Air Services has suspended all operations as it works with authorities to determine the cause of yesterday's 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.

"Whitsunday Air Services is continuing to work with the Queensland Police, the ATSB and CASA to assist with their investigations. Whitsunday Air Services will be suspending all operations while a full review process is undertaken."

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has confirmed it will be investigating the crash.

"A team of Transport Safety Investigators will soon travel to the accident location to commence the evidence collection phase of the investigation," an ATSB statement said.

"There, investigators will interview witnesses, examine any available recorded data, review operational records and technical documentation amongst other activities."

Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Wilcox says the local community has been devastated by the accident.

"It will be sombre day for us in the Whitsundays. My thoughts and prayers at this stage are with the families affected by this," he told ABC radio.

The Queensland premier said she felt for those affected by the tragedy.

"Visitors come to our state for its beauty and its safety. Their families should know how deeply we feel their loss," Annastacia Palaszczuk told state parliament.

The pontoon, 65km northeast of the Whitsundays, allows underwater viewing chambers. Tourist operators say the Hardy Reef offers an excellent combination of reef, coral and fish life for tourists.

The well-known Heart Reef is also nearby.

Original article can be found here ➤  https://www.9news.com.au




Police return with bodies after tragedy: Whitsunday Water Police return to Airlie Beach just after midnight after two people were killed in a helicopter crash at Hardy Reef on Wednesday afternoon. 

Earlier, police confirmed two international tourists, a man and a woman, died after the helicopter they were travelling in crashed off Hardy Reef.
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It was a long rescue mission for authorities, with the vessel only returning to Abell Point Marina just after midnight, where a funeral home was waiting to transport the bodies when they arrived back to the mainland.

At 4:10pm emergency services received reports of a helicopter crash that occurred about 65km north-east of the Whitsundays at about 3.35pm.

Police Vessel Damien Leeding and other vessels were dispatched to the site with police and other emergency services.

"A man and a woman who are believed to be international tourists were recovered from the helicopter and pronounced deceased at the scene," police said.

"Three other people, including the male pilot and a male and female passenger, also believed to be from overseas, will be transported by sea for medical attention for non-life threating injuries."

All passengers were recovered from the helicopter.

Police will continue to assist the Australian Transport Safety Bureau with the investigation and recovery of the aircraft.




Earlier: 

Five people were aboard the Eurocopter 120 which went down near Hardy Reef pontoon about 4.30pm.

One person is in a serious condition while two others have escaped with minor injuries. 

The helicopter is believed to have crashed into the water 250 metres from the Hardy Reef pontoon.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority says five people were aboard the Eurocopter 120 which went down near Hardy Reef pontoon at about 4.30pm on Wednesday. One person is in a serious condition while the two others have escaped with minor injuries.

In a statement, the company that owns the helicopter, Whitsunday Air Services, confirmed the two fatalities.

"Whitsunday Air Services can confirm that a tragic accident involving a Whitsunday Air Services helicopter carrying four passengers and one crew member has occurred at Hardy Reef today," the statement said.

"The accident occurred while the helicopter was on final approach for a landing at it's Hardy Reef Heliport and resulted in two fatalities and two passengers sustaining minor injuries.

"We are extremely saddened by this incident and our deepest condolences are with the families of all of the passengers. Whitsunday Air Services is continuing to work with the Queensland Police, the ATSB and CASA to assist with their investigations.

"Whitsunday Air Services will be suspending all operations while a full review process is undertaken. Further information will be released in due course."

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau will begin investigating the crash of the single-engine EC120B helicopter.

"A team of Transport Safety Investigators will soon travel to the accident location to commence the evidence collection phase of the investigation. There, investigators will interview witnesses, examine any available recorded data, review operational records and technical documentation amongst other activities," the ATSB posted to social media Wednesday night.

"The evidence collection phase will also define the size and scope of the investigation and determine the expected timeframe for the completion of a final report.

"No further information is available at this time."

The ATSB added "should a critical safety issue be identified during the course of the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties".

The Hardy Reef pontoon allows underwater viewing chambers with tourist operators in the area saying Hardy Reef offers an excellent combination of reef, coral and fish life for tourists.

Councillor Ron Petterson at Whitsunday Regional Council took to Facebook expressing his sympathies for those involved.

"I ask that we all keep our thoughts and prayers tonight with those involved in today's tragic accident out at Hardy Reef. A sad heartbreaking day..." he said.

Whitsundays MP Jason Costigan said, "Absolutely shocked to hear this terrible news in our part of the world. Please keep the families and friends of the deceased in your prayers, as well as the injured."

It comes a day after the final investigation report into the partial engine power loss and ditching of a Robinson R44 helicopter near Hamilton Island on November 8.

Then, the pilot landed the helicopter on the water, with the emergency floats deployed, shut down the engine, and applied the rotor brake.

The pilot activated the emergency locator transmitter and instructed passengers to prepare to inflate their life jackets and to prepare to exit the helicopter if necessary. They were rescued about an hour later. The helicopter later sank and was unable to be recovered.

The report highlights that without an emergency floatation system the risk of the helicopter sinking with the occupants on board would have been greater.





Initial:

Police are currently en-route to Hardys Reef after reports of a helicopter crash.

The crash site is about 65km north east of the Whitsundays and it is believed that five people were on board however their condition is not known at this stage.

Police vessel leader Damien Leeding and other vessels are currently travelling to the site with police and other emergency services.

A helicopter has been reportedly dispatched from Townsville and police are on a police vessel with more officers on a ferry - none of which had arrived on scene yet. 




There have been other helicopter tragedies in the Whitsundays over the years, including:

17 October 2003: RACQ CQ Rescue Helicopter crash kills three

A three-men RACQ CQ rescue crew took off from their hanger in Mackay at 9.35pm on October 17 and was en route to Hamilton Island for a medical evacuation.  

Fifteen minutes into the flight, the Bell 407 went down in the sea between Cape Hillsborough and Little Green Island, off Shoal Point.  

Pilot Captain Andy Carpenter, 31, crewman Stewart Eva, 31, and ambulance paramedic Craig Liddington, 31, were killed.  

12 December 1985: Tourist killed in helicopter pontoon mishap

Two passengers were ejected, one of them killed, when the rotor blades of the Bell 206 helicopter they were in became tangled with another helicopter on a Blacks Reef pontoon.   

Four helicopters had been tasked that day to transport 21 people from Hamilton Island to Blacks Reef for a boat cruise.   

The Bell 206 [VH-HIL] was the fourth to park on the pontoon, which was authorised for only three aircraft.    An Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation found insufficient space was available.    

Original article ➤ https://www.whitsundaytimes.com.au

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