Mid-air collision between two helicopters Australia Four people have died and three are in critical condition, officials said Monday.
The collision happened at around 2pm local time near the popular tourist area of Main Beach on the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane.
“When those two aircraft collided, they landed on a sandy beach just outside the SeaWorld resort,” Queensland Police Inspector Gary Worrell, regional duty officer for the south-east region, told reporters.
He said it was difficult for emergency services to access the sand bank, which is located far from the beach.
Jayney Shearman from the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) said there were 13 people in the two helicopters. Of them, four died, three were seriously injured and six suffered minor injuries, including cuts and broken glass.
All the injured have been taken to hospital, he said.
Photos from the site show debris lying on sandbars, crews on land and numerous ships piled up in the surrounding waters.
While it is too early to determine the exact cause of the crash, Worrell said preliminary investigations suggest that one helicopter was taking off and the other was landing when it collided.
A helicopter “had its windshield removed and landed safely on the island. Another (helicopter) crashed and was upside down,” he said.
After the accident, nearby police and citizens rushed to the spot and tried to evacuate the people from the helicopter and give first aid.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) chief commissioner Angus Mitchell said in a statement that an investigation into the collision had been launched.
Investigators from ATSB offices in Brisbane and Canberra will be sent to the scene to collect evidence, examine the wreckage and map the site, as well as interview witnesses and relevant parties, Mitchell added.
He asked anyone who witnessed the collision or saw the helicopters flying to contact investigators. A preliminary report will come out in the next six to eight weeks along with the final report after the investigation, he said.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk offered her deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and to all those affected. “What happened on the Gold Coast today is an unimaginable tragedy,” he said.
Sea World Drive is closed to traffic and police have asked motorists and pedestrians to avoid the area.
Sea World Drive is the main access point to the popular tourist marine park in the heart of the Gold Coast. With schools closed for the long summer vacation, the region is currently in peak tourist season.
CNN has reached out to SeaWorld for comment.