Hawaii has seen 18 civilian helicopter crashes in the last five years

Updated: Dec. 27, 2019 at 5:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - There have been 18 civilian helicopter crashes in the islands since 2015, NTSB records show.

The latest happened Thursday evening, when a tour helicopter with seven people onboard crashed on its way back to Lihue. The remains of six of those on the chopper have been recovered.

Of the 17 previous crashes, meanwhile, eight happened on Oahu, five on the Big Island and two each on Kauai and Molokai, the records show.

Those crashes were responsible for eight fatalities.

The incident on Kauai is the second fatal helicopter crash in the islands this year.

In April, a Robinson R-44 went down in Kailua, killing the pilot and his two passengers.

Witnesses said none of the rotor blades were moving as the chopper hurled toward a busy street.

Another Robinson R-44 went down in October 2018 when the pilot passed out twice. He and his two passengers, who had gotten engaged just days prior, survived but did suffer injuries.

In February 2016, onlookers watched in horror as a Bell 206B plummeted out of the sky and into the water at Pearl Harbor near the Arizona Memorial. A family of four from Canada was on board. Rescuers pulled the group to shore, including a teen who later succumbed to his injuries.

The NTSB says the engine-to-transmission drive shaft failed in flight due to improper maintenance.

The last crash on Kauai happened in 2016, when a chopper touring the Na Pali Coast went down on a beach. All six passengers ended up suing Blue Hawaiian Helicopters for negligence.

The fatal crash Thursday is all but certain to reignite a debate about the safety of helicopter tours.

Hawaii Congressman Ed Case has proposed legislation that would impose more rules for the tour chopper industry.

“It’s just an incredible tragedy, not only that seven lives appear to have been lost, but that this is the third time in one year in Hawaii that we’ve had to face such a tragedy," he said.

In September, Case introduced the Safe and Quiet Act, which takes recommendations from the NTSB.

The FAA, though, regulates chopper tours.

One suggestion would limit pilots to flying, not allowing them to also serve as tour guides. Case says that’s a distraction.

The measure would also address flight paths, preventing tour choppers from taking routes over some communities. Case says that’s not only a noise concern for residents but puts people on the ground in danger, too. The bill is pending in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

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