NTSB arrives on Kauai to investigate fatal tour chopper crash

Updated: Dec. 30, 2019 at 12:03 PM HST
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KOKEE, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A team from the National Transportation Safety Board is on Kauai to figure out what caused a tour helicopter crash that killed seven people.

The NTSB will look at several factors of the crash: The pilot, the helicopter, and the environment.

"They'll try to look for any electronic devices that will sort of paint a portrait of what happened," said NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss. "They'll look at tree strikes and other terrain issues to see what direction the flight was coming from."

Weiss said the investigator in charge is from their Alaska bureau and has extensive experience with rugged outdoor terrain. He added the location of the wreckage is going to be an obstacle.

“In general, we try to recover the wreckage. We actually move it to a secure location, so that investigators can come back during the course of the investigation to look at a particular component," Weiss said. “I don’t know if that’s going to be possible in this case.”

The investigation could take anywhere between 18 to 24 months.

The crash killed six passengers — all visitors to the islands — and the 69-year-old pilot.

[Read more: Family, friends mourn victims of Kauai tour helicopter crash]

Eleele resident Lawrence Yadao Sr. said he after he heard about the crash, he realized he’d seen the helicopter hovering low overhead while he picked maile on Nualolo Trail on Thursday afternoon.

He said when he arrived at the trail, the weather was nice enough for him to wear shorts. But then he says the weather took a turn, and that’s when he noticed a helicopter hovering low above him.

"Was kind of bad the weather with the fog and the rain and I could hear the chopper," said Yadao. "Then all of a sudden, that noise just disappeared. It was just kind of strange."

Yadao said he had a gut feeling something was wrong the entire way home.

He told his wife about what happened on his hike, then she told him the news.

“She told me there’s a helicopter missing. I ran to my phone and called KPD and gave them the best information that I could. (The next day) they got it right on the nose. They found the wreckage,” he said.

Yadao, who hunts in the area often, said he’s been having sleepless nights with the sound of the chopper replaying in his head.

"Knowing that maybe I could've helped somebody. I have a lot of grandchildren, and it's kind of crazy knowing that children and people just passed away from something like that," he said.

Anyone who may have seen or heard something on the day of the crash is asked to email the NTSB at witness@ntsb.gov.

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