Low visibility and treacherous weather conditions appear to have been factors in a helicopter crash on Molokai that killed a well-known attorney and his female passenger, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The report released Wednesday said the privately-owned Hughes 369D helicopter registered to Gary Galiher was destroyed on Nov. 15 at approximately 6:40 p.m. after crashing into rugged terrain about a mile north of Pukoo. Along with Galiher, real estate agent Keiko Kuroki was killed in the crash.
The flight departed the Honolulu International Airport just before 6 p.m. and was bound for a private residence on Molokai, the report said.
Galiher owned property on the east side of the island that included a helipad and a residence on the southeast side of Kamakou Mountain.
In interviews with the NTSB, witnesses reported seeing the helicopter with its bright search light and said that it appeared that the pilot was lost and searching the ground for something. They also said weather conditions -- heavy rain and strong wind gusts -- were some of the worst they’ve seen in years. The National Weather Service radar showed moderately heavy bands of rain at the time of the accident.
The following day, crews scoured the area for hours in search of the crash victims. Rescuers found the wreckage about 1:30 p.m. in a heavily wooded area some 1.3 miles above Kamehameha V Highway.