Two U.S. travelers were killed after a helicopter crashed while transporting passengers to a coral-viewing site along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef on Wednesday, according to officials from the Queensland Police Department.
The helicopter crashed near Hardy Reef, located on the Great Barrier Reef off Airlie Beach, northeast of Hamilton Island on the Whitsunday chain of islands at about 3:35 p.m. in the afternoon, landing in the water.
The aircraft was on approach to land at the pontoon, where visitors are able to head into underwater viewing chambers to admire the area’s coral population, when it collided with the water instead, officials from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in a statement.
Queensland police inspector Ian Haughton told the Associated Press that while the pilot of the aircraft was able to pull one of the passengers, a 65-year-old woman from Hawaii, out of the crash wreckage, officials were unable to revive her and she later died on the scene.
The woman died alongside a 79-year-old male passenger, who Haughton told the AP was also from Hawaii, despite attempts from bystanders to resuscitate him.
Two other passengers, a 34-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman from Colorado, were injured in the accident and taken along with the 35-year-old male pilot operating the aircraft to Australia’s mainland to receive treatment for their injuries, police officials said.
All five passengers have yet to be identified.
The helicopter, which was was a five-seat, single-engine Eurocopter EC120 Colibri, was operated by Whitsunday Air Services. The company has since ceased operations while ATSB officials investigate the incident.