Investigation set after 6 hurt in Hawaii helicopter crash

Jun 9, 2022, 2:18 PM | Updated: Jun 10, 2022, 7:16 am

HONOLULU (AP) — A federal aviation accident investigator will be sent to Hawaii to investigate after a tour helicopter crashed on a remote Big Island lava field of jagged rocks, injuring all six people on board and forcing rescuers to fly in to extricate some of them from the wreckage, officials said Thursday.

Photos taken by rescuers showed the crunched Bell 407 helicopter lying on its side in the barren lava field with its nose partially detached and some of its blades bent at odd angles.

It had departed from Kona International Airport about 5 p.m. Wednesday on a sightseeing tour and crashed about 30 minutes later near the southernmost tip of the island, National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson Jennifer Gabris said in an email.

The rough lava field is more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the nearest road, so rescuers had to be taken there by two helicopters, Hawaii County Assistant Fire Chief Darwin Okinaka said.

Firefighters extricated three people — an 18-year-old woman, a 19-year-old woman and a 23-year-old man — who managed to walk to waiting medics, the fire department said. A 48-year-old man also walked from the crash site.

The most seriously injured person was a 19-year-old woman who was flown to a hospital, the fire department said. A seriously injured 54-year-old man, along with the four others, were taken by ambulance to the hospital. The helicopter passengers and pilot were not identified.

Hawaii has a thriving helicopter tour sector because of the flights that are extremely popular among tourists who want to see the islands’ stunning scenery from the aircraft that fly above rugged terrain that’s hard to reach otherwise.

A 2019 helicopter tour crash on the island of Kauai killed all seven people on board and the NTSB in its investigative report accused regulators of lax oversight of the helicopter tours.

That crash was blamed on the pilot’s decision to keep flying despite worsening weather. Witnesses and other pilots reported fog, rain and low visibility around the time of the crash, and some pilots had turned around.

In the Big Island crash, Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said he was awaiting updates on the conditions of the injured, and other information and information on what might have caused the crash.

The weather in the area about the time firefighters were called included winds of about 16 mph (26 kph), gusts of about 23 mph (37 kph) and some scattered or broken clouds, said Thomas Vaughan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“Standard, afternoon weather on the Big Island,” he said.

Paradise Helicopters owner Calvin Dorn said in a statement that there were five passengers and one pilot on the tour. The company is cooperating with authorities, the statement said.

According to an NTSB database, the company was involved in at least two previous accidents during sightseeing tours.

While returning from a sightseeing tour in 2005, a helicopter developed a “sudden vibration in the tail rotor pedals” followed by a loud crack or snap and then a loud banging noise, the NTSB said. It hit low trees and shrubs when the pilot landed in a clearing in a forest near the Big Island town of Pahoa. The pilot and four passengers were uninjured.

And as a Paradise helicopter pilot prepared to take off in 2009 for a sightseeing tour of Oahu for four passengers, the helicopter’s left landing gear collapsed, NTSB records said. The helicopter tilted to the left and was damaged, but no one aboard was injured.

In Wednesday’s crash, even though all of those on board were hurt, the crash could have been much worse, Okinaka said.

“They’re very, very lucky looking at how significant the damage to the aircraft was,” Okinaka said.

The NTSB investigator is not traveling to the crash site at this time but will go to Hawaii to examine the wreckage after it is recovered, Gabris said.


Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer speaks inside the Recorders Office, Nov. 9, 2022, in...
Associated Press

Dominion conspiracies highlighted by Fox lawsuit have election officials concerned for safety

Maricopa County officials are bracing for what could happen when it comes time to replace its contract for voting equipment.
2 days ago
A building is damaged and trees are down after severe storm swept through Little Rock, Ark., Friday...
Associated Press

Tornado causes widespread damage to buildings, vehicles in Little Rock

A tornado raced through Little Rock and surrounding areas Friday, splintering homes, overturning vehicles and tossing trees.
2 days ago
FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks with reporters while in flight on his plane after a cam...
Associated Press

Worries grow that Trump indictment could undermine public confidence in other investigations

Trump’s attempts to overturn those results amid false claims of widespread fraud are at the heart of two other ongoing investigations.
2 days ago
(Facebook Photo/Superior Court of Arizona in Yavapai County)...
Associated Press

Arizona judge has cases reassigned following DUI arrest

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that all cases currently assigned to a Yavapai County Superior Court judge recently arrested on suspicion of extreme DUI will be reassigned to other judges.
6 days ago
Haitian migrant Gerson Solay, 28, carries his daughter, Bianca, as he and his family cross into Can...
Associated Press

US, Canada to end loophole that allows asylum-seekers to move between countries

President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday announced a plan to close a loophole to an immigration agreement.
9 days ago
Expert skateboarder Di'Orr Greenwood, an artist born and raised in the Navajo Nation in Arizona and...
Associated Press

Indigenous skateboard art featured on new stamps unveiled at Phoenix skate park

The Postal Service unveiled the “Art of the Skateboard" stamps at a Phoenix skate park, featuring designs from Indigenous artists.
9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...
Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.
(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...
Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Investigation set after 6 hurt in Hawaii helicopter crash