Pilot killed in mid-air helicopter crash had traces of cocaine in his system

Australian Transport Safety Bureau helicopter crash
Australian Transport Safety Bureau

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has published an interim accident investigation report into a mid-air collision between two helicopters on the Gold Coast, Australia. 

In the report, published on January 2, 2023, the only pilot who was killed in the accident was found to have low levels of cocaine in his system, according to the ATSB

“A forensic pharmacologist engaged by the ATSB has stated that the very low concentrations of these metabolites suggest exposure was not likely to have occurred in the 24 hours prior to the accident, and it is unlikely there would have been impairment of the pilot’s psychomotor skills,” Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell at ATSB said. 

A forensic pathologist also reported that there were no signs of chronic stimulant use, and the cocaine could have been taken up to four days before the crash.  

On January 2, 2023, two Eurocopter EC130B4s, operated by Sea World Helicopters, a sightseeing firm, crashed mid-air resulting in the death of four people.  

Shortly before 2pm, the first helicopter (XH9) took off with one pilot and five people on board for a five-minute sightseeing tour of the area. 

Around five minutes later, the second helicopter (XKQ) left the helipad with a total of seven people on board, including the pilot.  

Less than one minute later, the two aircraft collided whereupon the second helicopter’s tail and main rotor separated, causing it to crash. Four people were killed, and three others severely injured,  

Although the first aircraft was heavily damaged and the pilot was injured, it managed to land. Three of those on board suffered serious injuries.  

In the newly released interim report, the ATSB also highlighted that some passengers were not properly wearing seatbelts because of their lifejackets making it difficult.  

“During this investigation, our investigators identified a potentially common lack of understanding in the broader helicopter tourism community about how constant wear lifejackets should be worn in conjunction with seatbelts,” Mitchell explained. 

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