Four people were killed and three were in critical condition after two helicopters collided mid-air in Australia, authorities said on Monday.
The collision happened around 2pm local time near Main Beach, a popular tourist area on the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane.
“The two planes crashed on a sandbar outside the SeaWorld resort when they collided,” Queensland Police Inspector Gary Worrell, the district duty officer for the South East Region, told reporters.
He added that it was difficult for emergency services to gain access to the sandbar not far from the coast.
According to Jayney Shearman of the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS), there were 13 people on board the two helicopters. Of those, four were killed, three were seriously injured and six suffered minor injuries, including cuts from broken glass.
All the injured have been taken to hospital, she said.
Photos from the scene showed debris lying on a stretch of sand, people gathered on land and many boats in the surrounding waters.
Worrell said that while it was too early to determine the exact cause of the crash, initial investigations indicated that one helicopter was taking off and the other was landing when it collided.
One helicopter “had its windshield removed and landed safely on the island. The other (helicopter) crashed and was upside down,” he said.
He added that after the accident, nearby police and members of the public quickly rushed to the scene, trying to transfer the people in the helicopter and give them first aid.
Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said in a statement an investigation had been launched into the collision.
Investigators from the ATSB’s Brisbane and Canberra offices would be dispatched to the scene to gather evidence, examine the wreckage and map the scene, as well as interview witnesses and interested parties, Mitchell added.
He asked anyone who witnessed the collision or saw the helicopter fly to contact investigators. He said a preliminary report would be out in the next six to eight weeks, with a final report coming when the investigation was complete.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk expressed her “deepest sympathies” to the families of the victims and all those affected. “What happened on the Gold Coast today is an unimaginable tragedy,” she said.
Police said SeaWorld Boulevard was closed to traffic and urged motorists and pedestrians to avoid the area.
Seaworld Drive is the main entrance to the popular Marine Park in the heart of the Gold Coast. It’s high tourist season in the area and schools are closed for the long summer break.
CNN has reached out to SeaWorld for comment.