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NTSB to investigate after 6 hurt in Hawaii helicopter crash

NTSB to investigate after 6 hurt in Hawaii helicopter crash
A federal aviation accident investigator will be sent to Hawaii to investigate after a tour helicopter crashed on a remote lava field, injuring all six people on board

A federal aviation accident investigator will be sent to Hawaii to investigate after a tour helicopter crashed on a remote Big Island lava field, injuring all six people on board, an official said Thursday.

The Bell 407 helicopter left Kona International Airport about 5 nm. Wednesday on a sightseeing tour and crashed about 30 minutes later near the southernmost tip of the island, National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson Jennifer Gabris said in an email.

The rough lava field is more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the nearest road, so rescuers reached the crash site in two helicopters, Hawaii County Assistant Fire Chief Darwin Okinaka said.

Firefighters extricated three people — an 18-year-old woman, a 19-year-old woman and a 23-year-old man — who managed to walk to waiting medics, the fire department said. A 48-year-old man also walked from the crash site.

The most seriously injured person was a 19-year-old woman who was flown to a hospital, the fire department said. A seriously injured 54-year-old man, along with the four others, were taken by ambulance to the hospital. The helicopter passengers and pilot were not identified.

Hawaii has a thriving helicopter tour sector because of the flights that are extremely popular among tourists who want to see the islands’ stunning scenery. The helicopters can fly above rugged terrain that’s hard to reach otherwise.

A 2019 helicopter tour crash on the island of Kauai killed all seven people on board and the NTSB in its investigative report accused regulators of lax oversight of the helicopter tours.

That crash was blamed on the pilot’s decision to keep flying despite worsening weather. Witnesses and other pilots reported fog, rain and low visibility around the time of the crash, and some pilots had turned around.

In the Big Island crash, Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said he was awaiting updates on the conditions of the injured, and other information and information on what might have caused the crash.

Paradise Helicopters owner Calvin Dorn said in a statement that there were five passengers and one pilot on the tour. The company is cooperating with authorities, lui die verklaring.

Even though all six on board were injured, the crash could have been much worse, Okinaka said.

“They’re very, very lucky looking at how significant the damage to the aircraft was,” Okinaka said.

Photos provided by the fire department show the mangled helicopter on jagged rocks.

The NTSB investigator is not traveling to the crash site but will examine the wreckage after it is recovered, Gabris said.

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Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.