Police have uncovered debris and human remains from a helicopter that crashed off the NSW Port Stephens coast, killing five people, almost three weeks ago.
Over the past week meticulous search and recovery efforts hampered by bad seas have been focused on an area near Birubi Point.
A large area was searched and debris was located before late yesterday afternoon police divers discovered more from the aircraft and human remains, about 30m below the surface.
The Newcastle News reported remains of two of the five victims were recovered today with help from the Australian Defence Force.
Detectives from Marine Area Command are continuing investigations, working closely with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, to determine what happened when the chopper crashed, killing pilot David Kerr, Queensland mates Jamie Ogden and Grant Kuhnemann, and Sydney couple Jocelyn Villanueva and Gregory Miller.
The flight from Brisbane to Sydney on Friday, 6 September, went off the radar about 6.30pm and a search operation was started in Anna Bay.
Choppy seas and strong winds hampered the search and crews have been combing the area for days in short windows of opportunity.
Mr Miller was a warrant officer with the Australian Defence Force and Ms Villanueva was a government worker with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
Her sister Athena Rob told The Sunday Telegraph she couldn’t say why they were on the flight.
Mr Ogden’s brother told the newspaper he had been talking about the trip with his mates for weeks.
The 1966 Bell UH1 left Archerfield and stopped at Coffs Harbour Airport about 4pm to refuel before heading for Bankstown Airport.
But strong westerly winds were reported to have swept it across the east coast with a cold front, and aviation experts said the lack of a mayday call in the extreme conditions might have made Mr Kerr become disorientated.
The pilot’s last communication was a request to travel higher because of a strong tailwind.
In a heartbreaking text to his daughter, Mr Ogden sent her a photo saying, “halfway there, look at the beautiful red sun” while they were refuelling.
“You were so excited for that helicopter trip,” she wrote on Instagram.
“Who would’ve thought that an hour after that text you were involved in the most horrific accident.”
A family member of Mr Ogden’s told the Goulburn Post the group were “all friends” simply flying to Bankstown for “a breakaway”.
Mr Ogden’s father, Graham, told Nine the group was “full of life, the lot of them”.
“Just one look at the sea out there, you can nearly expect what could have happened,” he said.
“It would have been a great weekend away, but it didn’t turn out that way.”