The founder of an award-winning tourism company has been identified as the pilot and one of two people killed in a helicopter crash in Broome.
Troy Thomas, 40, and a 12-year-old girl died when the Robinson R44 helicopter crashed on Antheous Way, Bilingurr, a northern suburb of Broome, just after 2:30pm on Saturday.
A woman in her 20s and another 12-year-old child were critically injured in the crash and have been flown to Perth for medical treatment.
Witnesses reported hearing a loud bang and the sound of the helicopter prior to the crash, while sirens from the large-scale emergency response could be heard across Broome.
Mr Thomas started the award-winning Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures company in 2006, but sold it last year to tourism group Journey Beyond.
He was retained for one year as a manager, so was still working with the company at the time of his death.
He accepted an award on behalf of the company at the Australian Tourism Awards in March.
Crash leaves small community ‘struggling’
Kimberley District Inspector Gene Pears said the crash and the deaths were having a significant impact on the local community.
“It’s not a great day for Broome,” he said.
“There were many witnesses to the crash, some may have heard something, some may have seen something.
“We’re interviewing witnesses at the moment, but this will be really tragic for people here in a small community, so many people would be affected, many people would be struggling.
“Please seek professional help and talk to each other and look after each other as Broome people do really well.”
Inspector Pears said as is the case in most country towns, the first responders would have known those involved in the crash.
He said while the investigation was still in its preliminary stages, it was understood the helicopter crashed shortly after take-off.
He said the crash site was being secured by police while they waited for officers from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to arrive.
Tourism industry ‘in mourning’
The WA branch of the Australian Tourism Export Council released a statement on the crash.
“The Tourism Industry is in mourning today with the very sad news of the tragic death of Troy Thomas in Broome,” it said.
“Troy was the founder of the award winning Horizontal Falls Adventure Company, a devoted husband and father, son, brother and friend to many … a beautiful soul who will be missed, but whose legacy will remain as a trailblazer for tourism in Western Australia.
“Our sincere condolences to Troy’s family and friends, and to the family of the little girl who also did not survive the helicopter crash.”