Four people have died after the helicopter they were travelling in was engulfed in flames at Bulli Tops.
The accident occurred around 12.10pm on the grassy area outside Panorama House in the Illawarra’s northern suburbs.
It was initially believed that the passengers were part of a wedding party and a child was on board. However, these reports have not been confirmed and the four passengers are now believed to have been adults.
The helicopter, which had four people on board when it departed from Bankstown, was believed to have been landing at Panorama House.
Superintendent Steven Baker from Fire and Rescue NSW and Detective Inspector Tim Beattie from Wollongong police addressed the media this afternoon.
Supt Baker said the first people on the scene were Panorama House workers, who attempted to extinguish the flames before Fire and Rescue NSW arrived.
‘‘On arrival Fire and Rescue NSW personnel observed that local workers [from Panorama House] had attempted to extinguish the fire, and they then proceeded to extinguish the fire with foam,’’ he said.
Supt Baker said the fire was ‘‘fairly intense’’ and he commended the workers for their bravery.
‘‘It’s a very brave action. They have put their own lives at risk in an attempt to save others.’’
Police said it was too early to identify the passengers in the helicopter and there was no information on the movements of the helicopter before the crash.
The nature of the relationships between the deceased was also unknown.
Norm Upton, of Bulli, was driving home from Sydney, south along Mount Ousley, when he saw the helicopter engulfed in flames.
‘‘I was about 200 yards away and I saw people running around,’’ he said.
‘‘It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to see on my way back.’’
Another witness, who was working in nearby bushes at the time of the accident, said he heard a huge crash.
The electrical worker thought the noise belonged to one of his machines and didn’t leave the bushes to investigate until five minutes later, when he discovered the burning wreckage of the helicopter.
Mercury reporter Kate McIlwain was on the scene shortly after the crash and said the helicopter was a ‘‘burnt-out wreck’’.
"The chopper is crumbled in the northern corner of the Panorama House site. The only part of the helicopter visible is the yellow tail,’’ she said, adding the site is littered with splinters of trees.
Media have been told to avoid the splinters as they could form part of the investigation.
A spokesperson for Air Services Australia confirmed that the helicopter, which was a four-seater Robinson R44, was operating outside controlled airspace.
Paramedics, Wollongong police and Fire and Rescue NSW launched a huge response to the crash with more than 30 units attending the scene.
Forensic investigators arrived on the scene around 2.20pm.
Aviation experts are on their way to Panorama House.
Investigations into the crash are expected to continue for several days.
Anyone who may have witnessed the crash or who may have been driving past Panorama House around 12.10pm is urged to contact Wollongong police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Panorama House workers and first responders to the scene will receive counselling.