Sea World chopper crash survivors recount tragic day one year on


This day last year is a day that is forever seared into the memory of Sea World helicopter crash survivor Winnie de Silva.

“I remember everything, it’s fresh,” de Silva told Today.

“It looks like yesterday. The pictures still come to my head.”

An aerial shot shows the scene after two helicopters collided near Sea World on the Gold Coast. (Nine)
An aerial shot shows the scene after two helicopters collided near Sea World on the Gold Coast. (Nine) (9News)

“The fear of anything falling on the ground still makes me feel like it’s a crash.

“It didn’t last long but our lives changed from that accident. 

De Silva and her son Leon, who was nine years old at the time, were in one of two helicopters that collided in midair on the Gold Coast on January 2 last year, killing four people.

The crash, which happened when one chopper took off and the other came in to land, sent shockwaves across the nation.

Sea World Helicopters chief pilot Ashley Jenkinson, NSW woman Vanessa Tadros and UK couple Diane and Ron Hughes died in the collision.

Leon suffered a brain injury in the crash and was placed in an induced coma, while his mother was also seriously injured.

The mother and son were both seriously injured in the crash.
The mother and son were both seriously injured in the crash. (Today)

The pair from Geelong had been holidaying in Queensland and decided to take the chopper ride as a special experience.

Now, De Silva said they were thankful to still be here.

“We are definitely trying our very best to live by the day, but we are just grateful to be alive,” she said.

De Silva said recovering from the trauma of the tragedy had not been easy. 

“We’re trying to put life into perspective,” she said.

“We are pushing ahead with everything we want to do, but it’s just difficult, because some things, you can’t do them, like (today) we’re not sure if you’re going to step out or not.”

After the crash, Leon and his mother were rushed to separate hospitals.

Leon said he still remembered the moment he was reunited with his mum at his bedside after the crash.

Winnie and Leon de Silva were sent to separate hospitals after the crash.
Winnie and Leon de Silva were sent to separate hospitals after the crash. (Today)

“She was in a wheelchair and then she came into my room and then we both hugged and then cried,” Leon said.

De Silva said she had learnt not to take life for granted and was so grateful to all the people who had helped her and Leon in their slow recovery.

“It’s been the longest journey, but having the whole world supporting us, that time in hospital, it’s the best joy that I have. 

“I felt like every person was my family. 

“I’m grateful to have survived, really grateful. It was a miracle.”



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