EAST MOLOKAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - After an hours-long search Wednesday, crews located the wreckage of a helicopter that crashed in rugged terrain on Molokai, killing well-known Hawaii attorney Gary Galiher and his female passenger.
Galiher, 70, was traveling with real estate agent Keiko Kuroki from Honolulu to his Molokai home Tuesday night when he apparently ran into trouble during windy conditions.
The privately-owned Hughes 369D helicopter registered in Galiher's name departed Honolulu International Airport about 6 p.m. Tuesday and never landed at a private helicopter pad on Molokai as expected.
The chopper was reported overdue at 6:55 a.m. Wednesday, setting off a massive search by air and on land. Rescuers found the wreckage about 1:30 p.m. in a heavily wooded area some 1.3 miles above Kamehameha V Highway.
Galliher's daughter, Mari, told Hawaii News Now that her father was an "amazing man" who lived to help others.
"He's just such an incredible, incredible person," she said. "He's so passionate. He just loved what he did for people, and to him it was never about his name being out there. It was about helping people."
News of Galiher's death stunned his colleagues in the legal community.
"He'll really be missed. It's a big void," said attorney and fellow aviator Rick Fried, who worked with Galliher to help the state win a $1.38 billion settlement against the tobacco industry.
Galiher also spent more than 35 years helping mesothelioma victims in Hawaii.
"He was a good friend and was probably one of the top asbestos lawyers in the country," Fried said.
According to his firm's website, Galiher was also an experienced helicopter accident attorney who had more than 3,600 flight hours under his belt.
"He's very experienced. I've never heard of him having a problem," said pilot John Corboy, who also owns a private helipad on Molokai. "He's very knowledgeable. He commutes every week, just as I do for the past 30 years."
Corboy's wife says the weather near Kaunakakai was very gusty Tuesday night.
"The wind was blowing incredibly strong. I had to shut the house up just to keep the wind out. it was that bad," said Regan Corboy. "And it was gusting, coming this way and that way. Nothing that I would want to fly in."
The FAA and NTSB are investigating the accident, and crews are expected to work Thursday to remove the chopper wreckage from the crash site.