Yesterday a helicopter crash on Hawaii's Molokai Island resulted in four tourists and a pilot being killed. The aircraft was carrying two couples who were touring above West Maui and Molokai.
The helicopter went down and landed near an elementary school and then went up in flames. Firefighters were able to recover all the bodies from the fiery crash, one of which was found underneath the helicopter wreckage.
One couple was from Ontario, Canada, the other was from Pennsylvania. Maui County spokesman Rod Antone told the Star the couple from Pennsylvania were newlyweds.
Names of the victims have not been released at this time, and according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, the pilot's has been tentatively identified as Nathan Cline, 30, of Kahului, Maui.
Tours usually include lifts above the island's sea cliffs and gives tourists an opportunity to view Hawaii's tallest waterfall. Reportedly U.S. federal officials are still investigating the crash and the cause has not yet been determined, however weather may have been a factor.
Accuweather reports, "A report issued by HawaiiNewsNow claims the helicopter crashed during rainy, windy weather. Weather information obtained by AccuWeather.com showed wind gusts over 30 mph at the Molokai Airport at the time of the crash."
According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski, "The trade winds combined with the steep cliffs can create some crazy and sudden gusts for small aircraft navigating the islands." Additionally Sosnowski said, "The strength and flow around this high may have been enhanced by the 'snowicane' over Alaska from earlier this week."
Reportedly the EC-130 chopper, leased from Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC, and tours run by Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, was under a year old. Reports indicate Blue Hawaiian Helicopters is cooperating with the investigation.
Currently helicopter tour companies are under inspection over safety concerns. Last month a fatal crash occurred in Manhattan, N.Y. during a sightseeing trip when the aircraft crashed into the East River.
A report published earlier this week by the LA Times said a third victim from this crash has died from injuries sustained during the accident. At this time, the cause of the crash has not yet been determined by investigators and results are not expected to be known for a few more months.
The Star reported, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters owner David Chevalier said, “We’re extremely grieved for our pilot as well as the passengers,” Chevalier said. “Something like this can’t be more devastating to us.”