7 Sep 2019

Five feared dead as helicopter vanishes in NSW

4:06 pm on 7 September 2019

Five people - four men and a woman - are missing feared dead in New South Wales after a private helicopter vanished off the radar in bad weather.

Helicopter generic

Photo: 123RF

A massive air and sea search, covering 150 square nautical miles, is under way off Anna Bay in the New South Wales Hunter region and wreckage has been spotted off the coast.

Police said an aircraft was reported as "fading off the radar" about 6.30pm on Friday before the search operation was launched.

It is understood the chopper was flying from Brisbane to Bankstown, although earlier reports said it had taken off from Coffs Harbour.

Police have confirmed had five people are on board - four men and a woman.

The pilot of the helicopter is David Kerr, the owner of Brisbane Helicopters.

He is known around the Hunter Valley region as his helicopters have carried water bombing during previous bushfire seasons.

Police say the families of those missing have been contacted.

Police are still holding out hope, and calling it a rescue mission at this point.

Wreckage has been spotted by aerial assets off Fingal Head, however due to adverse conditions no significant wreckage has been recovered, the police statement said.

The search, coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), is being assisted by officers from the NSW Police Marine Area Command, Port Stephens-Hunter Police District, Westpac Rescue Helicopter, NSW Marine Rescue, and various aerial support.

Police divers are on their way to assist in the search.

On Friday night, a severe weather warning was issued for the region where the aircraft lost contact.

The Bureau of Meteorology predicted damaging, locally destructive winds with peak gusts in excess of 125kph and average gusts of 80kph-90kph.