Sea World helicopter crash: Winnie de Silva and son Leon survived but left with severe injuries


A mother who moved from Kenya to Australia and dreamed of taking her son on a helicopter ride is now in hospital while her boy fights for life after their Sea World tour flight crashed. 

Winnie de Silva, 33, and her nine-year-old son Leon are among three passengers who sustained serious injuries when their helicopter took off from the theme park’s helipad on Monday afternoon and 20 seconds later collided with another chopper.

Pilot Ash Jenkinson, 40, Sydney mother Vanessa Tadros, 36, and British couple Ron Hughes, 65, and Dianne Hughes, 57, were tragically killed when the Eurocopter EC130 nosedived into a sandbar on the Gold Coast Broadwater. 

Ms de Silva’s husband Neil had taken the Geelong family on a quick holiday to the Gold Coast and decided to shout the pair a 10-minute flight so they could have the experience despite being on a ‘budget holiday to save money’.

Winnie de Silva, 33, moved to Australia from Kenya and her son Leon, 9, (pictured together) joined her just a year ago

Ms de Silva has two broken legs, a broken right shoulder, a broken collarbone and a damaged left knee after the Sea World helicopter crash

Ms de Silva has two broken legs, a broken right shoulder, a broken collarbone and a damaged left knee after the Sea World helicopter crash

After waving the pair off Mr de Silva watched on in ‘numb’ disbelief as they ascended into the flightpath of the other helicopter, collided in an explosion of glass and crashed to the ground. 

‘That’s the sort of thing where you expect people to die but I was trying to be as positive as I could,’ he told The Herald Sun.

Ms de Silva is in Gold Coast University hospital with two broken legs, a broken right shoulder, a broken collarbone and a damaged left knee.

Her husband said she told him that her life flashed before her eyes before they hit the ground.

The community support worker is stable but now faces months of surgeries, rehabilitation and recovery.

Leon – who only moved to Australia a year ago to be with his mother – is in a more serious condition as he suffered a fractured skull, brain trauma and facial injuries in the crash. 

He is being treated in Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane and is now in an induced coma.

Her son Leon has a fractured skull and is fighting for life in hospital

Her son Leon has a fractured skull and is fighting for life in hospital 

Ms de Silva's husband Neil had taken the Geelong family on a quick holiday to the Gold Coast and decided to shout the pair a 10-minute flight so they could have the experience despite being on a 'budget holiday to save money'

Ms de Silva’s husband Neil had taken the Geelong family on a quick holiday to the Gold Coast and decided to shout the pair a 10-minute flight so they could have the experience despite being on a ‘budget holiday to save money’

‘The hospital rang me early this morning to say the left side wasn’t responding how they liked,’ Mr de Silva said.

‘They asked my permission to drill a hole into the right side of his skull to attach a device to monitor his brain pressure.’

Mr De Silva added that despite their significant he felt fortunate they had both survived. He has set up a GoFundMe to help with their hospital bills.

The third survivor from the aircraft is a 10-year-old boy from Sydney whose mother Vanessa Tadros was among those who perished.

He is also fighting for life in Gold Coast University Hospital.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is probing the crash, particularly what was happening inside the two cockpits at the point of impact, and it has salvaged both helicopters from the sandbar.

ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said Mr Jenkinson’s aircraft had taken off and was in the air for less than 20 seconds before its main rotor blades hit the cockpit of the second helicopter, which was descending to land.

‘Now, exactly whether that was the very first point of impact – we’re yet to determine,’ he told reporters on Tuesday.

‘But that in itself has led to the main rotor and the gearbox separating from the main (Mr Jenkinson’s) helicopter, which then had no lift, and has fallen heavily to the ground.’

The two Sea World helicopters clipped each other in front of hundreds of holidaymakers on the Gold Coast

The two Sea World helicopters clipped each other in front of hundreds of holidaymakers on the Gold Coast

The ATSB is now leading an investigation to what caused the two helicopters to collide

The ATSB is now leading an investigation to what caused the two helicopters to collide 

Mr Mitchell said it was a remarkable achievement for the other pilot to land despite the damage to his aircraft, and his actions had helped avoid a far worse situation.

‘When any aircraft accident happens, there are enormous forces at play, and particularly helicopter collisions,’ he said.

‘So the presence of mind to be able to land that helicopter, particularly considering the damage that we know has occurred on that front lefthand side of the helicopter, it does appear have been a remarkable job to have got it down.’

Sea World Helicopters, which operated both aircraft, and Village Roadshow Theme Parks offered condolences to the victims, their families, and guests and staff at Sea World who witnessed the crash.

‘We are providing support to our team members who have been emotionally affected by the tragedy,’ Village Roadshow said in a statement.

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