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Family, friends mourn victims of Kauai tour helicopter crash

Updated: Dec. 29, 2019 at 10:07 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Those killed in a tour helicopter crash on Kauai include a Wisconsin mother and daughter and a family of four from Switzerland, authorities said Saturday.

According to the flight manifest, there were four adults and three children onboard.

Among the victims: 47-year-old Amy Gannon, of Wisconsin, and her 13-year-old daughter, Jocelyn.

Four other passengers in the helicopter were believed to be a family from Switzerland, and their identities have not yet been released. Officials said the family included two adults — ages 49 and 50 — and two children, 10 and 13 years old.

The pilot, meanwhile, was identified as 69-year-old Wailua resident Paul Matero. Safari Helicopters said he was the tour company’s chief pilot, and had 12 years of experience flying on Kauai.

The helicopter crashed Thursday night — on its way back from a sightseeing tour of the Na Pali Coast — in steep terrain between Milolii Ridge Road and Nualolo Trail, Kauai authorities said.

The wreckage was found the following day.

In interviews Saturday, Amy Gannon’s colleagues described her as fearless visionary for female entrepreneurs. “She just lit up a room,” said colleague Heather Wentler.

According to her coworkers, Gannon’s husband and son weren’t on the helicopter because it was full.

Jocelyn Gannon, who was on the chopper tour, was an eighth grader at Hamilton Middle School. "Our community has lost a wonderful young person, and a family is experiencing immeasurable loss. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Jocelyn’s family,” the school district said in a letter.

Safari Helicopters offered its condolences to the families of the victims Saturday, and said it was cooperating with the ongoing investigation.

“The Safari Helicopter family, along with the broader community, mourn the loss of seven lives that were on Thursday’s sightseeing flight," the company said, in a statement. "We mourn with the family members of those who were lost in the tragic accident.”

Kauai Fire Battalion Chief Sol Kanoho said the helicopter wreckage was found against a steep cliff.

“It would appear that it did hit pretty hard and there was fire,” he said.

Due to fog, personnel weren’t able to get back to the crash site until about 10 a.m. Saturday. They spent roughly two hours on the ground before weather conditions deteriorated.

While there, they recovered some personal belongings as well as human remains.

“We haven’t really found all the remains yet but we’re trying not to disturb too much of the crash site for the NTSB investigation,” Kanoho said.

After the NTSB arrives Sunday, Kauai police plan to resume the search for the remains of the seventh victim. Autopsies to positively confirm all identities are still pending.

This story will be updated.

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