Authorities end search for downed helicopter in waters off Molokai

Published: Oct. 19, 2017 at 10:00 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 19, 2017 at 10:37 PM HST
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(Image: Yan Chai)
(Image: Yan Chai)
(Image: Coast Guard)
(Image: Coast Guard)

MOLOKAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Coast Guard and Maui Fire Department have officially suspended their search for two missing men who were aboard a helicopter that vanished off Molokai on Monday night.

Jeremy Dossetter, 27, and 25-year-old Oliver Kirsch were onboard at the time of the incident.

Dossetter is a student pilot at Mauna Loa Helicopters who moved to Hawaii from California. Kirsch, a native of Switzerland, is an instructor at the flight school. He decided to learn to fly helicopters after he was rescued by one.

"I only feel shocked and very sad," said Yan Chai, a former flight school student from China who knows both men. "They're both good guys and they're both very smart and they have warm hearts."

Kirsch was Chai's teacher and last year she flew with him in the Robinson R-44 helicopter that is now missing.

"Oliver is a very awesome instructor. He helped a lot of students achieve their certificate already," she said.

A Molokai fisherman told authorities that from a far distance he saw the red beacon of an aircraft plummet from the sky Monday night and then search crews arrived in that area a short time later.

Tuesday morning, the Maui Fire Department's Air 1 spotted an uninflated life vest floating on the water's surface about 100 yards from shore and a mile east of Ilio Point, officials said. The company confirmed that the vest came from the missing helicopter.

Multiple agencies are working together to conduct search efforts. Coast Guard crews had searched approximately 7,200 square miles by Wednesday morning.

Employees from Mauna Loa Helicopters are also assisting with the search using a private helicopter in an effort coordinated with authorities.

The chopper search comes less than a year after well-known attorney Gary Galiher and Honolulu Realtor Keiko Kuroki were killed in a helicopter crash on Molokai. Weather is believed to be a factor in the crash.

In 2011, five people were killed when a tour helicopter crashed into a hillside on the east end of Molokai. Two newlyweds from Pennsylvania, a Canadian couple and the pilot were killed. Authorities said pilot error is to blame for the crash.

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