HONOLULU – A federal plane accident investigator is dispatched to Hawaii to investigate after a tourist helicopter crashed in a remote Big Island lava field with jagged rocks, injuring all six people on board and forcing emergency crews to fly in to rescue some of them to clear debris. The officials announced on Thursday.
Photos taken by rescuers showed the battered Bell 407 helicopter lying on its side in the barren lava field, with its nose partially detached and some blades bent at odd angles.
It had departed Kona International Airport on Wednesday around 5 p.m. for a sightseeing tour and crashed about 30 minutes later near the southernmost tip of the island, National Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman Jennifer Gabris said in an email.
The rugged lava field is more than a mile from the nearest road, so rescuers had to get there in two helicopters, Hawaii County Deputy 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 paramedics, the fire department said. A 48-year-old man also walked from the crash site.
A 19-year-old woman who was flown to a hospital was the most seriously injured, the fire department said. A seriously injured 54-year-old man was taken to hospital by ambulance along with the four others. The helicopter passengers and the pilot have not been identified.
Hawaii has a thriving helicopter tour sector, as the flights are very popular with tourists who want to see the islands’ stunning scenery from planes that fly over rugged terrain that is otherwise difficult to access.
A 2019 helicopter tour crash on the island of Kauai killed all seven people on board, and the NTSB accused regulators of lax oversight of the helicopter tours in its investigative report.
This crash was attributed to the pilot’s decision to continue flying despite the deteriorating weather. Witnesses and other pilots reported fog, rain, and poor visibility at 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 condition of the injured and other information and information about what may have caused the crash.
Paradise Helicopters owner Calvin Dorn said in a statement that five passengers and one pilot took part in the tour. The company is cooperating with the authorities, the statement said.
Although all six on board were injured, the crash could have been far worse, Okinaka said.
“They are very, very lucky given the extent of the damage to the plane,” Okinaka said.
The NTSB investigator is not traveling to the crash site but will examine the wreckage after it is recovered, Gabris said.
Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen of Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.
https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/06/09/ntsb-to-investigate-after-6-hurt-in-hawaii-helicopter-crash/ Inquiry dropped after 6 injured in Hawaii helicopter crash