Australia

Five feared dead in NSW chopper crash

The helicopter is a Bell uh-1/B205. Source: Youtube/Brisbane Helicopters

The wreckage of a helicopter which went missing near Newcastle has been sighted with fears for the five people on board.

Four men and a woman are feared dead after the wreckage of the helicopter they were in was seen sinking off New South Wales' coast.

The Bell UH1 helicopter dropped off the radar near Anna Bay, north of Newcastle, about 6.30pm on Friday.

The tail rotor was found about 8.45am on Saturday by water police before a rescue helicopter sighted the main airframe at 9.30am about five miles south of Fingal Bay, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

The observer in the rescue chopper watched the airframe sink "a short time later" before boats could reach the area.

"The location of the airframe is consistent with the drift model of where the aircraft was believed to have entered the water," the AMSA statement said.

"There have been no sightings of the occupants of the helicopter."

At midday, the search was suspended due to expert medical advice and the discovery of the damaged airframe.

NSW Police will now lead efforts to recover the sunken wreckage.

"AMSA would like to thank all the agencies involved in this rescue in extremely challenging conditions and extends our deep sympathies to the family and friends of those aboard the helicopter," it said.

The private aircraft, believed to have been travelling south to Bankstown, went missing during poor conditions with low visibility, high winds and dust in the air.

Air traffic control indicated that the aircraft was rapidly losing altitude when contact was lost, and there were no detected emergency beacons signals or Mayday calls, AMSA said.

The conditions also affected rescue efforts, with a Westpac Rescue helicopter returning to base after seeing pieces of debris on Friday night.

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