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 pastor Dean 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 service heard how Ash was a doting dad and ‘true hero’, who offered his flying services to help people in need of supplies during natural disasters, with a ‘big heart’, and ‘contagious energy’.
Mourners greet each other outside Southport Church of Christ on Friday for the funeral of Sea World helicopter pilot Ashley Jenkinson
Sea World helicopters chief pilot Ash ‘Jenko’ Jenkinson, 40, died in the helicopter crash (pictured with his fiancée, Kosha)
‘Ash you may be gone, but you will always be remembered. Your memory lives on in the memories who had the privilege of knowing you,’ pastor Dean said.
‘Rest in peace Ash, your wings were ready, but our hearts were not.’
Pastor Dean read out a speech written by Kosha, recalling how she was introduced to Mr Jenkinson by her friend Kate, who was his housemate.
‘She said “I don’t know if I want to introduce you to my housemate because he will fall in love with you,’ Kosha recalled.
‘He walked up to me and hugged me, kissed me on the cheek, and said ‘Kate was right. You are beautiful.’
‘The second time we met, Ash said you are as beautiful as I remembered the first time.’
Kosha said she was going through a tough time when she first met Ash but he, ever the gentleman, would cook for her and drop flowers to her work to cheer her up.
Five years earlier, Kosha said she saw a psychic who said ‘you will meet a man with a helicopter and he is going to love you forever’.
‘And when I met Ash, I thought wow – this is him,’ Kosha said.
Mourners embrace one another as they arrived at Mr Jenkinson’s funeral on Friday
Several men turned up at the funeral service on Harley Davidsons, parking them in a row outside the church
Mr Jenkinson was an experienced helicopter pilot who had been flying for almost 16 years
The last time they were together Kosha said she kissed him goodbye like it was the last day they would see each other – a ritual they did every time they parted ways.
She said takes comfort in knowing the last thing they said to each other was ‘I love you’.
Mr Jenkinson’s older and young brothers Miles and Blaze fought back tears as they remembered him as a young boy who would not sit still as he was always ‘tinkering’ on items.
They said his ‘mechanical mind’ saved them when their camper broke down during a road trip adventure when they were younger.
Miles said his brother saw a helicopter while working in a bar in England and it was ‘love or obsession at first sight’, sparking his passion to embark in a piloting career.
‘To say that fatherhood completed Ash is an understatement,’ Miles said,’Kayden’s eyes would light up every time he would see his dad.’
‘Not many kids can say they have been in a helicopter. It is a memory we will always share with Kayden so he can remember he was a super hero.’
Miles said that they were inspired to live their lives to the fullest like their ‘strong, fearless’ brother every day.
‘We didn’t get enough time with you, but we will always remember the 40 years of memories,’ Miles said.
‘You were the best brother we could have ever wished for.
‘You will always be our hero.’
An group of Mr Jenkinson’s loved ones walk with two children towards the pilot’s funeral
Two women looked sorrowful as they waited to enter the chapel on Friday
Two men hug wearing black hug as they gathered to pay respects to the ‘top gun’ pilot
Three women and two men hugged as they met outside the church
Kayden ran around on stage, clapping and mingling with the guest as the service was in procession.
A photo slideshow showed Ash as a young boy with his brother, flying around the country to help flood victims, proposing to Kosha, and rocking his newborn son.
As the ceremony drew to an end, loved ones carried Mr Jenkinson’s coffin out of the church to the Foofighters’ ‘My Hero’.
Mourners peeled out of the church behind them and could be seen embracing as Mr Jenkinson’s coffin was loaded into a car to be taken to his final resting place.
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.
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.
It is understood the helicopter taking off clipped another helicopter above and then nosedived into the sand
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’.
‘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.
The Air Transport Safety Bureau is investigating the cause of the crash earlier this month
‘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.’