Helicopter Pilot in Fatal Gold Coast Crash had Cocaine in System, but Level Unlikely to Affect Flying: Report

A preliminary investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) revealed that a helicopter pilot involved in a mid-air collision on the Gold Coast had cocaine in his system, but at a level unlikely to have affected his flying. The collision, which occurred on January 2, 2023, resulted in the death of four people and serious injuries to several others.

The incident involved two helicopters near Sea World on the Gold Coast. The pilot of one aircraft was returning to a helipad with passengers after a scenic flight, while a second tour helicopter took off and collided with the other aircraft a few minutes later, resulting in tragedy.

An autopsy of the deceased pilot, Ashley Jenkinson, found no evidence of significant disease, but a toxicology report showed a positive result for cocaine. However, the examining forensic pathologist reported that the level of cocaine in his system was low and unlikely to have impaired the pilot’s psychomotor skills. The ATSB’s interim report emphasized that formal findings regarding the contributing factors have not been made.

The ATSB has estimated that its final report, which will include analysis, findings, and any recommended safety actions, will be completed between July and September 2024. The interim report also noted several steps that have already been taken by Sea World Helicopters to enhance safety measures, including greater air traffic control at the beachside heliport.

This tragic accident underscores the importance of thorough investigations and the implementation of safety measures to prevent similar occurrences in the future. The ATSB is committed to making findings and driving safety actions to reduce the likelihood of similar incidents.