NTSB report: Tour chopper was falling apart before it hit Kailua road

Updated: May. 9, 2019 at 4:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Witnesses realized a tour helicopter that crashed on a Kailua road last month was in distress when they “heard an odd noise followed by a loud metallic bang," according to a preliminary NTSB report released Thursday.

The helicopter’s pilot and his two passengers ― both visitors to the islands ― were killed in the crash.

The four-seat, Robinson R-44 helicopter took off from Honolulu’s airport at 8:54 a.m. April 29 and slammed onto a busy Kailua roadway less than 20 minutes later.

[Read more: ‘We are all in pain’: Loved ones mourn 3 killed in Kailua chopper crash]

The NTSB report said that after witnesses heard the loud noise from the chopper, they looked up to see the craft losing altitude quickly.

Parts of the aircraft were spinning off, they said, and none of the rotor blades were moving.

“Witnesses reported observing pieces falling from the helicopter which included: a piece of the main rotor blade, plexiglass, pieces of airframe, and a fuel tank,” the preliminary report said.

What the report doesn’t include: Any conclusions about what NTSB investigators believe may have brought the helicopter down.

It could be a year or more before the NTSB issues its final report on the incident.

The chopper was owned by Novictor Helicopters, and the company has said it’s cooperating with investigators.

The charred wreckage of the craft remained on Oneawa Street, the road where it crashed, for more than a day before the NTSB hauled it away for further inspection.

The crash has ignited fierce debate about whether tour helicopters should be more strictly regulated, especially when they fly over residential areas.

There are also questions about the safety record of older model Robinson R-44 helicopters.

This story will be updated.

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