A PAL of a pilot who died in a helicopter crash sent him a haunting final text after hearing news of the horror mid-air collision.
Ash Jenkinson, 40, originally from Birmingham, was among four killed when two tourist-filled choppers collided near a Sea World resort on the Gold Coast in Australia.
Three others including two children are fighting for their lives.
One Sea World helicopter was taking off on a sightseeing flight and the other was landing when they smashed into each other, police said.
Ash, the chief pilot for Sea World Helicopters, had welcomed his first son to the world in September 2021 with his wife Kosha.
One of the pilot's friends, Ritchie Gregg, described him as "a a top guy, top gun and the best dad".
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Ritchie said he frantically messaged Ash when he heard from another friend via social media that there had been a crash.
He texted Ash: "Hope that wasn't you?"
"I heard [about the crash] at ten past two," Ritchie told the Daily Mail.
"So I sent the message and was waiting for an answer."
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The heartbroken pal said Ash was "the most excited dad" – and added his wife is in "shock" after the tragedy.
"They only got married in October," Ritchie said.
"Ash had the biggest heart and was the happiest guy. When he'd finished work flying he'd be straight home to see his boy.
"Family was his biggest thing."
Another close friend of Ash, Andy Taylor, said he found out he had died from posts on social media.
"I saw it come up on a post on social media," Andy told Sunrise.
"I tried to ring Ash straight away. At first, the phone was dead and then went to the voicemail."
He described Ash as "a big guy with a big heart" and said the pilot "loved" his job.
"It was his life. It was everything to him," he said.
Colleague Penny Wilson also paid tribute to Ash, describing him as "always such a laugh to be around".
Heartbroken cousins in the West Midlands shared poignant posts after news of his death.
Ian Jenkinson wrote: "I am absolutely devastated at the sudden and tragic loss of my cousin, in such an awful accident.
Ash had the biggest heart and was the happiest guy
"Although we were half a world apart we regularly messaged each other. I send my love and condolences to you all down-under. RIP, love ya Cuz."
Angela Jenkinson posted photos of them together on a visit to Oz and said: "Absolutely devastated of the news of our Aussie cousin.
"Our absolute love and sadness is with our Aussie family and friends."
Brits Ron Hughes, 65, and his wife Diane, 57, also died in the horror collision.
The couple, from Liverpool, are understood to have been visiting Ron’s daughter Jane Manns, her husband Ben and their children.
They had decided to take a Sea World Helicopter flight over the Gold Coast on Monday afternoon when tragedy struck.
Jane and Ben said the family has been left "heartbroken" by their deaths.
“Our family is heartbroken and we are still trying to contact friends and family to let them know," they told 7News.
"Please respect our privacy at this devastating time."
Relatives of Ron and Diane – who tied the knot in August 2021 – are expected to touch down in Australia is the next few days.
Sydney mum Vanessa Tadros, 36, was named as another victim in Australian media. She was reportedly related to the Hugheses.
Her ten-year-old son was said to be critical in hospital last night, along with the other two passengers, a mum aged 33 and nine-year-old daughter.
Horrifying footage showed the moments before the crash as tourists waiting for a flight saw the doomed chopper take off.
One child is heard saying: "Is he going to crash?" as the two black Sea World aircraft head towards a collision.
Investigators are probing why the pilots apparently did not see each other until it was too late.
They believe the main rotor blade of Ash's chopper – which was airborne for less than 20 seconds – struck the front cockpit of the descending aircraft.
Five of the six on board were cut by shards from the smashed windscreen, but the pilot managed to land alongside the wreck of the other chopper.
Sunbathers, boaters and jet ski riders then raced to help the victims, police said.
At least 13 people required treatment following the tragedy on Monday afternoon at around 2pm.
Angus Mitchell, head of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, said the loss of the rotor blade sent Ash's copter into an "uncontrolled fall".
He said: "That led to the main rotor in the gearbox separating from the main helicopter, which then had no lift and has fallen heavily to the ground."
Sea World Helicopters expressed its sympathy for those involved in the crash – and said it is cooperating with the authorities to find out what happened.
Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the country had been left shocked by the "terrible and tragic incident".
"My thoughts are with all those affected, including first responders, and my deepest sympathies are with those who are grieving," he added.
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