Investigation number
AO-2023-001
Occurrence date
Location
Main Beach, Gold Coast
State
Queensland
Report release date
Report status
Interim
Investigation level
Systemic
Investigation type
Occurrence Investigation
Investigation phase
Examination and analysis
Investigation status
Active
Aviation occurrence type
Airborne collision
Occurrence category
Accident
Highest injury level
Fatal
Anticipated completion

The ATSB has commenced an investigation into the mid-air collision between VH-XKQ and VH‑XH9 helicopters below 500 feet above ground level in the vicinity the Seaworld Helipad, QLD at about 1400 hrs EST on 2 January 2023. VH-XKQ subsequently collided with terrain and VH-XH9 made an emergency landing. Four people were fatally injured with another 6 seriously injured.

To date, the ATSB has conducted, and/or is conducting the following activities:

  • interviews with the surviving pilot and adult passengers, eyewitnesses, and other pilots operating in the area at the time
  • review of passenger injuries and post-mortem reports
  • review of CCTV and witness videos and images
  • reconstruction of the flight paths of each helicopter
  • a visibility study to determine the extent to which each helicopter was visible from the pilot’s seat of the other helicopter
  • review of videos and images taken by the passengers on both helicopters
  • examination of the wreckage of both helicopters
  • examination of components of avionics systems of both aircraft (including radios and related equipment and transponders)
  • review of the maintenance and operational records of both helicopters and the process for implementing the helicopters into scenic flight operations
  • review of the aircrafts’ traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) functionality and similar technologies
  • analysis of survivability and forces through seat and restraint systems
  • examination of conspicuity devices available to both helicopters
  • review of pilot training records, medical information, recent history and post-mortem reports
  • interviews with ground crew, other pilots/operators conducting similar operations, and maintenance personnel
  • examination of workload and operational tempo
  • review of the radio calls made on the Southport common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) for these flights and previous flights
  • review of radar and surveillance data for helicopter operations near Sea World for these flights and previous flights
  • review of GPS data for these flights and previous flights
  • interviews with senior personnel
  • review of the operator’s procedures and practices for operating scenic flights in the Sea World area
  • a review of the regulatory surveillance of the operator
  • examination of safety related records.

In the course of the investigation, the ATSB has identified potential limitations in risk controls and organisational factors relevant to the occurrence that potentially contributed to the occurrence. Examination of these factors represent a significant increase in the scope of this investigation, and it has been upgraded from Defined to Systemic as a result. The ATSB's different levels of investigation are detailed here.

The continuing investigation will include further:

  • evidence collection
  • review of key changes in operations and facilities
  • review of oversight of key operational changes
  • analysis of change management processes
  • analysis of risk assessments and derived controls
  • interviews with key personnel involved in operational changes
  • examination of DAMP processes and regulations.

A final report will be released at the conclusion of the investigation. Should a critical safety issue be identified during the investigation, the ATSB will immediately notify relevant parties so appropriate and timely safety action can be taken.

The ATSB SafetyWatch highlights the broad safety concerns that come out of our investigation findings and from the occurrence data reported to us by industry. 

One of the safety concerns is Improving risk management associated with change.

Another is about Reducing the severity of injuries in accidents.

Last Updated
Aircraft Details
Departure point
Seaworld, Main Beach, Queensland
Destination
Seaworld, Main Beach, Queensland
Model
EC130 B4
Serial number
3845
Sector
Helicopter
Registration
VH-XH9
Operation type
Part 133 Air transport operations - rotorcraft
Damage
Substantial
Manufacturer
Eurocopter
Aircraft Operator
Sea World Helicopters Pty Ltd
Aircraft Details
Departure point
Seaworld, Main Beach, Queensland
Destination
Seaworld, Main Beach, Queensland
Model
EC130 B4
Serial number
4639
Sector
Helicopter
Registration
VH-XKQ
Operation type
Part 133 Air transport operations - rotorcraft
Damage
Destroyed
Manufacturer
Eurocopter
Aircraft Operator
Sea World Helicopters Pty Ltd