Kauai Reacts To Helicopter Fatality

Jerry Springbrum
Jerry Springbrum

KAUAI (KHNL) - It's the crash heard all around Hawaii. The day after a Heli USA helicopter plummets onto Princeville airport, reality starts to sink in.

"Somebody comes to enjoy themselves and get a beautiful view of the area and something like this happens. You know, it's really sad," said Ed Shiffra, a visitor from Arizona.

"We were shocked," said Marvella Alford, a visitor from the Big Island. "I feel very badly about the families and the visitors who come to see the beautiful island and they didn't get a chance to see anything."

Thursday night, Princeville airport is dark and quiet. By morning, a guard limits access. The airport was closed on Friday, as investigators try to piece together this complicated puzzle.

Investigators continue sifting through the wreckage, as police tape surrounds the crash site.

William Joseph Sulak was the pilot of the ill-fated flight. On Kauai he was known as "Helicopter Joe." He was a veteran pilot and has earned the Federal Aviation Administration's highest pilot rating for close to 30 years.

"So, I'm sure the pilot did what he could to get it back down, but when you're losing hydraulics, you're losing control," said Jerry Springbrum, a pilot from Minnesota.

As visitors mill around Kauai, some wonder if it could have been them.

"Yes, I wanted to," said Alford. "Get a sitter for (my baby), and me and my husband get some time to go up. Time was cut short. We didn't get a chance to do that."

Some say this crash helped shape how they spend the rest of their vacation.

"And I really wasn't planning on doing it," said Shiffra. "And once I heard about the tragedy, I was sure I wasn't going to do it."

But others say it won't stop them from enjoying our islands from the air.

"That happens so far and few between," said Alford. "It would be very unlikely that would happen anytime soon."

"It's a tragic loss," said Nancy Springbrum, a visitor from Minnesota. "My heart goes out to the families."

The vast majority of helicopter tours on Kauai were grounded Friday because of unfavorable weather conditions. The companies we spoke to, say they don't want to take any chances.