The heartbreaking last text recceived by a Birmingham pilot who was killed in an Australia helicopter crash has been revealed, as tributes pour in. Pilot Ash Jenkinson, aged 40, who had recently become a dad, was among four to die – including two other British nationals – when two Sea World helicopters collided on the Gold Coast.
One of the father-of-one’s close friend, Ritchie Gregg, texted Ash when he heard about the crash, as he feared for his friends’ life. The last text to Ash’s phone, from Ritchie, read: “Hope that wasn’t you?”
Family and friends described Ash as a “Top Gun” pilot with a “big heart” following the tragedy.
Ritchie, in another devastating reveal, said Ash’s 17-month-old son Kaiden “would probably be asking where dad is” right now.
He said he had heard about the tragedy “at ten past two”, adding: “So I sent the message and was waiting for an answer. When he and Kosha had their son (in September 2021) he was the most excited dad. (Kosha) is very silent, she’s in shock. Kaiden … would probably be asking where dad is.
“They only got married in October. Ash had the biggest heart and was the happiest guy. When he’d finished work flying he’d be straight home to see his boy.”
Mr Jenkinson had worked as a chief pilot at Sea World Helicopters since 2019. Following his death praised his mentorship and the assistance he provided during catastrophic floods in the New South Wales town of Ballina last year.
Another close friend of Mr Jenkinson, Andy Taylor, said: “I saw it come up on a post on social media. I tried to ring Ash straight away. At first, the phone was dead and then went to the voicemail.”
He told Sunrise today: “He did a lot of charity work, we did the floods down in Ballina and saved a lot of people.
“He is the best of the best. I don’t know what else to say.”
Colleague Penny Wilson added Mr Jenkinson had “such golden of heart, cheeky sense of humour and always such a laugh to be around”.
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Former colleague Lucy Kuhn said he was an “amazing pilot”.
She added he was “always so kind, helpful, and supportive,” and was a “true gentleman, and always willing to lend a hand.”
The other two British nationals to die in the crash were named today as Diane and Ron Hughes, 57 and 65. The pair were from Liverpool, and married in 2021.
Their families have said they are “heartbroken” and are still trying to get in contact with other family members and friends to let them know. A Sydney mother, Vanessa Tadros, 36, has been confirmed as the fourth victim.
Ms Vadros’s 10-year-old son, who was on board, is in now a critical condition, while a 33-year-old woman and a nine-year-old boy are seriously injured.
The forensic crash unit is investigating the incident with help from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), with the organisation’s chief commissioner Angus Mitchell saying it was a “remarkable achievement” there were not more deaths.
He added: “The second helicopter coming in to land has remarkably managed to land upright, and considering the damage that was done to the front left-hand section of that helicopter where the pilot was sitting, that’s a remarkable achievement.
“Whilst it has been very tragic that four people have lost their lives and many families are in mourning, we could have had a far worse situation.”
Mr Mitchell said the “evidence collection phase” of the ATSB’s investigation would take about six to eight weeks.