Loved ones pack out funeral service for ‘Top Gun’ pilot who died in doomed helicopter that crashed over Sea World
- Helicopter pilot Ashley Jenkinson, 40, has been farewelled in the Gold Coast
- The father-of-one’s funeral was held at Southport Church of Christ on Friday
- Jenkinson and three passengers died when their aircraft hit another on January 2
Pilot Ashely Jenkinson has been farewelled by heartbroken loved ones – eleven days after he was killed in the Gold Coast Sea World helicopter tragedy.
Hundreds of mourners piled into Southport Church of Christ at 2pm on Friday to say their goodbyes to the father-of-one, 40, who died alongside three passengers when their helicopter collided with another mid-air.
Mr Jenkinson’s fiancée, Kosha, and their one-year-old son, Kayden, sat at the front of the church, next to his white coffin, which was adorned with white flowers.
The service began with the pastor telling the crowd they had gathered today to remember Mr Jenkinson’s ‘contagious smile, kind heart, and good humour’, before Creed’s ‘With Arms Wide Open’ played.
The experienced pilot had just taken off on the joy ride about 2pm on January 2 when his aircraft smashed into a second coming into land over the Gold Coast Broadwater.
Mr Jenkinson was killed alongside British newlyweds Ron and Diane Hughes, 65 and 57, and Sydney mother Vanessa Tadros, 36, when the helicopter plunged to the ground.
Sea World helicopters chief pilot Ash ‘Jenko’ Jenkinson, 40, died in the helicopter crash (pictured with his fiancée, Kosha)
Hundreds of mourners piled into Southport Church of Christ at 2pm on Friday to say their goodbyes to the father-of-one
The three sole survivors on that chopper – Winnie de Silva, 33, her son Leon, 9, and Ms Tadros’ son Nicholas, 10 – were rushed to hospital with critical injuries.
Ms de Silva and her son, who suffered a fractured skull have both since stabilised, while Nicholas has been put on life support in a critical condition.
The second pilot, Michael James, managed to safely landed his aircraft, saving the lives of his five passengers – which included two New Zealand couples and a Western Australian man.
Four of the survivors were hospitalised after suffering injuries from glass shrapnel as the lower helicopter’s rotor blades sliced through the cockpit.
The Air Transport Safety Bureau has launched its investigation into the crash and vowed to look at all possible causes of the accident.
Mr Jenkinson grew up in the West Midlands, in England, before moving to Australia where he had a successful flying career, spanning almost 16 years and
Following Mr Jenkinson’s death, tributes poured in online as devastated friends remembered the Birmingham-born pilot as a ‘top gun’ with a ‘kind-heart’ who delivered much-needed supplies to flood-ravaged parts of NSW in 2022.
Last week, Owner of Sea World Helicopters John Orr-Campbell issued a tribute remembering Mr Jenkinson as a ‘first-class pilot and a first-class man’.
It is understood the helicopter taking off clipped another helicopter above and then nosedived into the sand
Mr Jenkinson was an experienced helicopter pilot who had been flying for almost 16 years
‘I knew Ash personally for nine years. He was a fine man and a standout pilot with 6,210 hours of flying to his name,’ Mr Orr-Campbell wrote online.
‘To lose a man and a pilot of Ash’s calibre is shocking in every sense of the word. I, along with all the staff at Sea World Helicopters are gutted to the core. My heart aches as I think of Ash’s fiancée Kosha and his one-year-old son Kayden.
‘I would also like to commend the other pilot, Michael James, who heroically got the second aircraft to the ground safely. We wish him well in his recovery.’
Mr Orr-Campbell revealed Mr Jenkinson had obtained his Commercial Pilots License in June, 2008 and flew choppers in Western Australia until 2011.
‘During this time Ash showed his love and commitment to community – he was involved in multiple search and rescue flights in the area,’ he said.
‘This community mindedness saw him dedicate over 700 hours and many days away from family and friends assisting in firefighting operations across Australia.’
In 2019, Mr Jenkinson became Chief Pilot of Sea World Helicopters and oversaw all aspects of safety and flight operations.
‘We have lost a first-class pilot, a first-class man and a wonderful father, partner and friend,’ Mr Orr-Campbell wrote.
‘RIP Ash, you will forever be in our hearts.’
SEA WORLD HELICOPTERS’ 40 YEARS OF ‘IMPECCABLE SAFETY’
Sea World Helicopters is an independent offshoot of the theme park close to Gold Coast’s world famous Surfers Paradise, and has operated for more than 40 years.
In November 2019 it opened Australia’s largest privately-owned multi-million dollar helicopter terminal overlooking Broadwater.
It bragged of its ‘impeccable’ safety record which it attributed to its ‘experienced pilots and meticulous maintenance regime’.
Prior to Covid hitting the tourist industry, the terminal flew up to 600 passengers a day, offering five minute scenic flights or 30 minute trips to hinterland waterfalls and coastal beaches.
In the wake of the pandemic, the firm diversified with trips to local wineries
Chief pilot Ash Jenkinson, 40, who was killed in the tragedy, said the flights offered a once in a lifetime experience to holidaymakers.
‘Day trips flying around to several wineries, who doesn’t want to do that?’ he said in 2021.
‘The Gold Coast is so well known for its golden sands and beach lifestyle, you forget that only a five-minute flight inland you have all these beautiful Hinterland rainforests and massive flyable waterfalls.
‘It’s something our guests will remember for a lifetime and one of my favourite locations in Australia.’
He added: ‘If you haven’t seen the Gold Coast from the air, you’re missing out.
‘The simple flight up and down the coastline, flying past the tall buildings and above the sea, is something you can’t grasp from the ground.’