Sea World helicopter crash survivors speak ahead of one-year anniversary of accident on Gold Coast


One year after the catastrophic Sea World helicopter crash that killed four people and injured nine others — survivors Winnie De Silva and her son Leon continue to live with more than just physical scars.

What was meant to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, turned into a nightmare when the helicopter they were in collided with another shortly after taking off from Sea World on the Gold Coast on January 2.

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Almost one year on, they are still recovering from physical and psychological injuries and struggling to come to terms with the last-minute decision to get on the flight.

“It’s been hard. It’s been difficult,” De Silva told 7NEWS.

“Just the thought of it, just the thought of death. That or how we survived — it’s been really, really hard and emotionally damaging for both myself and Leon.”

Physically, recovery from the accident has been a long road, with De Silva undergoing shoulder surgery only days ago and living with constant leg pain.

Leon, nine, suffered a serious brain injury and was placed in an induced coma. He recovered, but De Silva is also worried about his mental wellbeing.

Four people were killed when two helicopters collided. Credit: AAP
Winnie De Silva continues to struggle with physical injuries from the crash, having shoulder surgery only days ago. Credit: 7NEWS

“Leon is not alright psychologically. He gets very emotional,” De Silva said.

“He feels it in himself. He knows that he’s changed.”

De Silva said the memories of that last-minute decision to go on the joyride haunt her the most.

“Leon did not want to do that helicopter ride,” she said.

Winnie De Silva says she and Leon still struggle with physical and mental reminders of the crash. Credit: 7NEWS

“I wish I never did because it was a five or 10-minute ride. But two minutes later, our life change dramatically.

“What I remember is the bang and then things falling on our faces and then the air and then the crashing.

“We are in the air. I have no other escape. Where do I go to from here? So I surrendered everything and I said, ‘let what will be, happen’ and I was just … I was horrified.”

De Silva said she remembers waking up under the helicopter and strangers coming to her aid.

“To me, we were going to die. How we survived … a miracle. Angels came and protected us at that time,” she said.

Winnie and Leon De Silva spent weeks in hospital after the crash. Credit: 7NEWS

De Silva said the one-year anniversary will be a difficult date to remember.

“I have no idea what the emotions will be like. But it’s a very, very, very bad day for us.”

The findings from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigation into the Sea World crash are still several months away but an interim report is set to be released next week with information gathered so far.

De Silva hopes the findings will bring answers.

“The question is, what really happened? I would like them to answer me that question,” she said.

“That should never happen again. Or it should not have happened in the first place.”


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