The remains of six people have been found after a helicopter heading to one of the most rugged and remote coastlines in Hawaii crashed at the top of a mountain on the island of Kauai, authorities said.
Searchers called off looking for the seventh person on board due to fog but believed there were no survivors of the crash on the island of Kauai — where the aircraft was scheduled to tour on Thursday.
The aircraft had been scheduled to return around 5:30 p.m. at the landing pad in the town of Lihue.
The helicopter company, identified as Safari Helicopters, contacted the Coast Guard about 6 p.m. Thursday to say the aircraft was about 30 minutes overdue, authorities said.
According to a preliminary report, the pilot said the tour was leaving the Waimea Canyon area, known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” about 4:40 p.m., which was the last contact with the helicopter, Kauai police said.
A pilot and six passengers were aboard the helicopter tour of the island of Kauai, sometimes called the “Garden Island,” when it vanished mid-flight on Thursday. Much of the small island is lush, uninhabited tropical rainforest, and helicopter tours are used to see the stunning views which are a popular attraction.
The Eurocopter AS350 has an emergency electronic locator transmitter, but no signals were received. The locator devices are designed to activate when an aircraft crashes, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said in an email. They can, however, become defunct based on the force of the impact.
U.S. Rep. Ed Case of Hawaii cited fatal accidents over the years, blaming the FAA for not taking NTSB safety improvement efforts seriously and the industry for not regulating itself. He said, “innocent lives are paying the price.“
The FAA said it conducts random and regular surveillance on all Hawaii air tour operators and ensures companies address any issues. Gregor said the agency does not have concerns about the industry statewide.
The NTSB aviation accident database lists nine crashes of Hawaii helicopter sightseeing flights in the last 10 years, including three with fatalities.
“Our thoughts are with the families of those on-board as search and rescue crews work at the site of the helicopter crash on Kauai.” Hawaii Gov. David Ige said in a statement earlier on Friday.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending three investigators to the scene of the crash.