7 Confirmed Dead Following Tour Helicopter Crash In Hawaii

Dec 28, 2019
Originally published on December 29, 2019 2:28 am

Updated at 2:19 a.m. ET Sunday

Authorities in Hawaii confirmed Saturday that none of the seven people aboard a tour helicopter that crashed in a remote area had survived.

"Due to the additional recovery efforts, the nature of the crash and impact damage, Kaua'i police can confirm that there are no survivors," the police said in a statement Saturday.

Authorities identified some of the crash's victims: pilot Paul Matero, 69, of Wailua, Hawaii, and passengers Amy Gannon, 47, and Jocelyn Gannon, 13, of Madison, Wis. Police said the remaining victims are believed to be a Swiss family of four, with two adults and two children.

The helicopter was reported missing on Thursday about 30 minutes after it was scheduled to return from a sightseeing flight around Kauai, according to county officials. One pilot and six passengers were on the Safari Helicopter tour.

Local authorities suspended recovery efforts Saturday afternoon and said they had turned over the scene to the National Transportation Safety Board for investigation.

County officials had released a statement earlier saying that wreckage from the crash was found on Friday in Koke'e State Park and that the remains of six people were recovered.

"We are heartbroken by this tragedy and we continue to ask the public to consider the sensitive nature of this devastating situation," Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of all the victims during this extremely difficult time."

Helicopter tours of Kauai are popular, as they offer many people the opportunity to see the "Garden Island" that includes lush rainforests, mountains and the towering sea cliffs as seen in the Jurassic Park movies.

But Ladd Sanger, a Texas-based aviation attorney and helicopter pilot, told that The Associated Press that this varying terrain can create challenges for tour pilots.

"[Kauai] has microclimates, so the weather at the airport is going to be different than up at the crash location," Sanger said. "Those microclimates can come on very quickly and dissipate quickly too, so the weather reporting is difficult."

After the crash, Hawaii Rep. Ed Case released a statement, saying, "Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and friends of those lost, and our thanks to those who placed themselves in harm's way to find them."

Case went on to address the safety regulations surrounding helicopter tours and other small aircraft operations.

"Tour helicopter and small aircraft operations are not safe, and innocent lives are paying the price," Case said. "We know this not only because of repeated fatal accidents and other incidents over the years, but because the National Transportation Safety Board, responsible for analyzing all such accidents, has placed safety improvements for such operations on its highest priority list. We further know that the Federal Aviation Administration, responsible for regulating our nation's airspace, has not taken the NTSB's concerns seriously."

In August, Case introduced a measure that would "impose strict regulations on commercial tour operations to include helicopters and small planes."

The legislation came after two other deadly crashes one in April and one in June.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced on Friday that it was sending three officials to Kauai to investigate this week's fatal crash.

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