Two men walk away from helicopter crash - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Two men walk away from helicopter crash

Posted: Updated: Jan 5, 2009 07:42 PM
Cris Caughill Cris Caughill

By Leland Kim - bio | email

WAIALAE IKI (KHNL) -  A commercial helicopter carrying a pilot and a passenger crashed onto Waialae Iki ridge Monday morning.  It happened about 10:40 am, near Kalani High School.  The pilot was Eiki Miyasato, who joined Makani Kai Helicopters in 1991, and the passenger was Cris Caughill, a 38-year-old chief engineer for Cox Radio.

The two men are naturally thankful to be alive and both of them, walked away from the crash.  They say luck was definitely on their side.

A Makani Kai helicopter similar to this one was flying above Waialae Iki along the Wiliwilinui Trail when it experienced trouble Monday morning.  It wasn't carrying a tour group, but a radio station engineer who was there to check on a transmitter.

"We're just about to land, I mean, just five feet from landing and all of a sudden we lost power and he tried to set it down and things went crazy," said Caughill. "And the next thing I knew, I was hanging upside down looking up at the sky."

The Honolulu Fire Department's rescue team sprung into action.

"So we immediately got our rescue companies and everyone else going," said Capt. Terry Seelig, a spokesperson for the Honolulu Fire Department.  "They used a helicopter to reach them, and had both of them down here to Waialae Iki by about 11:30."

It happened six miles beyond the yellow gate, near the Ko'olau Ridge.  The helicopter ended up on a narrow strip of land.  Witnesses say if it landed five feet on either side, it could have rolled down the valley.

"I immediately thought, ‘Boy, there's 1,500 feet, 2,000 feet, nothing but hillside down into the valley,'" said Caughill.

Both men walked away from the crash.  They were treated for minor injuries on scene, but were not hospitalized.  Caughill credits Miyasato for landing the helicopter as safely as he did.

"It's a great day," said Caughill. "I think God was watching out for us, and the pilot had really great reaction time."

In the United States, there are about 1,600 general aviation crashes every year, with roughly a quarter of them fatal.  So Caughill and Miyasato are grateful to be alive, beating the odds.

"We certainly were being careful and safe today. The weather was great," said Caughill. "None of us expected this at all and I'm really thankful I'm talking to you guys."

Wiliwilinui Trail remained closed Monday night.  Hikers and others are encouraged to stay away until crews can safely remove the helicopter from the site. The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into the crash.