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Helicopter Crash in Hawaiian Lava Field Has No Fatalities


Tourist helicopter crashes in Hawaii | Image by The Spec

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All six people aboard a tour helicopter were injured after it crashed in a lava field of jagged rocks on the Big Island of Hawaii last week. The incident forced rescuers to fly in to remove some of them from the wreckage, authorities said, but none were killed.

Bell 407 helicopter was crumpled and laying on its side in the lava field with its nose missing and three of its blades twisted at various angles on Wednesday.

In an emailed statement, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) spokesman Jennifer Gabris said the plane left Kona International Airport at 5 p.m. on June 8 and crashed about 30 minutes later near the island’s southernmost point.

Darwin Okinaka, a Hawaii County Assistant Fire Chief, reported that rescuers were flown to the rugged lava field more than a mile from the closest road.

Three people — an 18- and 19-year-old female and a 23-year-old male — were rescued by firefighters and could walk to waiting medics, according to the fire department. A 48-year-old male also walked away from the collision. According to the fire department, the 19-year-old was airlifted to a hospital with critical injuries.

Due to most people flocking to Hawaii to experience the island’s breathtaking beauty from a helicopter, the helicopter tour industry is booming in the state, which has many helicopters.

The NTSB has blamed authorities for insufficient regulation of helicopter tours after fatal accidents on the island of Kauai in 2019. The board also reported that the pilot decided to continue flying despite the windy weather on that day.

At the time of the disaster, witnesses and other pilots reported fog, rain, and limited visibility and that some pilots had even made a turn back.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said he was anxiously awaiting new information on the crash’s victims’ situations and clues as to what caused the accident.

Thomas Vaughan, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said winds were blowing at 16 mph with gusts as high as 23 mph, and there were scattered or broken clouds in the sky when firefighters were sent.

Vaughan claimed that afternoon temperatures are “standard” for the Big Island of Hawaii.

In a statement, Calvin Dorn, the owner of Paradise Helicopters, stated that the excursion included five passengers and one pilot. He also mentioned that the firm has been cooperating fully with law enforcement.

An NTSB database shows that the firm has been involved in at least two prior sightseeing trip mishaps.

The NTSB reported that a helicopter returned after a tourist flight in 2005 with a “sudden vibration in the tail rotor pedals” followed by a loud crack or break and loud pounding noise.

When the pilot touched down in a clearing in a forest near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island, it struck low-hanging branches and plants. However, the five people aboard were unharmed, including the pilot.

According to NTSB documents, in 2009, a helicopter’s left landing gear disintegrated as the pilot of the Paradise chopper was preparing to take off with four passengers for an Oahu sightseeing tour. No one was hurt when the helicopter tipped over to the left.

While everyone on board was injured in Wednesday’s disaster, Assistant Chief Okinaka stated that the accident might have been far worse.

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

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board will fly to Hawaii after all the debris has been retrieved, Gabris added.

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