Helicopter crash survivors' chilling admission weeks after fatal tragedy

A month after the Gold Coast helicopter crash that claimed four lives, four surviving New Zealand passengers speak about their horrific ordeal.

One month on from the horrific Sea World helicopter crash that claimed four lives, survivors Elmarie and Riaan Steenberg have told of the terrifying moment they thought they were going to die.

The New Zealand couple, originally from South Africa, were visiting the Gold Coast with friends Edward and Marle Swart, but a five-minute mid-air joy ride turned deadly when two helicopters collided on Janurary 2.

The pilot of the other aircraft, Ashley Jenkinson, 40, was killed alongside British tourists Ron and Diane Hughes, and Sydney woman Vanessa Tadros who were riding in his helicopter. Mrs Tadros’s son Nicholas, 10, was critically injured and remains in hospital while Geelong woman Winnie de Silva and her son Leon, nine, suffered serious injuries.

Elmarie and Riaan Steenberg and friends Edward and Marle Swart on plane to Gold Coast before helicopter crash.
Elmarie and Riaan Steenberg (front, right) and friends Edward and Marle Swart (back, left) survived the Sea Wold helicopter crash last month. Source: 60 Minutes

Helicopter crash survivors share details

The surviving couples have spoken for the first time about the day, with Ms Steenberg admitting "it could have been so different". Appearing on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, the couples say they're still picking glass from their bodies, despite being rushed into emergency surgery to remove it following the accident.

"I just want it out of my body because it reminds (me) of the day," Ms Steenberg said.

The women were seated in the front alongside the pilot, while their husbands sat behind them. They were covered in glass when the rotor blades of the ascending helicopter smashed through the window of their helicopter.

Ms Steenberg said she knew they were in "serious trouble" when she spotted the helicopter underneath her. 'On your left. On your left' she heard through the pilot's radio, admitting at first she "thought it was something beautiful".

Two Sea World helicopters collided on the Gold Coast on January 2. Source: AAP
Two Sea World helicopters collided on the Gold Coast on January 2. Source: AAP

"I saw the helicopter underneath me, and I knew we were in serious trouble and I actually said: 'Please, God, help us'," Ms Steenberg said. "And then I heard the explosion".

The couple’s pilot Michael James somehow managed to land the plane on a nearby sandbank. The survivors were taken to hospital and treated for their injuries. They have since returned home to Auckland.

Progress for young Nicholas Tadros who remains in hospital

Last week, 10-year-old victim Nicholas Tadros, spoke for the first time since the accident. The family's parish priest shared an update on Facebook, and confirmed he "doesn't have a brain injury".

Surgeons were still considering amputating the 10-year-old boy's foot which was "shattered very badly". But according to the priest, the "little champ is fighting the good fight" and "keeps improving".

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