Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

TOP STORY >>Dream trip turns into a nightmare

By Heather hartsell
Leader staff writer

A Cabot couple’s dream vacation to Hawaii has led to funeral services for the wife tentatively planned for Saturday at Moore’s Jacksonville Funeral Home.

James (Jay) and Teri McCarty of 808 Spring Valley Road had dreamed of their Hawaii vacation for years; for them, the romantic getaway was the trip of a lifetime. But that dream vacation turned into a nightmare when the couple’s sightseeing helicopter they were traveling in crashed on the Hawaiian island of Kauai last Thursday afternoon. Teri McCarty, 47, was killed in the crash; James, 48, a claims adjuster for Allstate Insurance Company, remains at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, where he has undergone surgery.

The McCartys were with two other couples aboard the helicopter. A spouse from each couple was killed, as well as the pilot: John O’Donnell of Rockaway, N.Y.; Magriet Inglebrecht of Santa Maria, Calif., and the pilot, Joe Sulak, of Hawaii.

According to reports from KGMB-TV in Honolulu, the crash occurred as the pilot made a desperate attempt to get back to the airport after the chopper developed hydraulic problems. The A-Star executive helicopter, operated by the Heli USA tour company, crashed about 200 yards from its normal landing pad at Princeville Airport on the north shore of Kauai.
The McCartys’ niece Shelley said her aunt had waited her entire life to go to Hawaii.

“What a wonderful vacation for them – she lost her life and he lost everything in his life,” the niece said. She also said her uncle was undergoing surgery at Queen’s “to look like himself again,” and had several broken bones. Queen’s hospital would not provide any update on the crash victims’ conditions, but did confirm the victims were under its care. A friend of the McCarty’s left a message on the Honolulu Advertiser’s Website following an article about the accident in the newspaper.
“Falakhi5” wrote: “God rest the victims of the HeliUSA copter crash in Princeville Thursday, especially Teri McCarty of Cabot, Arkansas, and God speed the recovery of the injured. Get better and come home soon Jay. We love and miss you.”

The helicopter was giving a scenic tour, which cost $240 per person, across the island to see waterfalls, canyons, the rugged Na Pali coastline and humpback whales in the ocean. Nigel Turner, chief executive of Las Vegas-based Heli-USA, said the helicopter was one of six in his Hawaii fleet. A second tour helicopter crash occurred Sunday, killing one and injuring four others.

That helicopter was operated by Inter-Island Helicopters and was almost halfway through a tour when it hit problems. A loud bang was heard while in the air, the pilot lost control, and the helicopter struck some trees; it landed next to a YMCA camp.
One man is in critical condition, and two women and the pilot are listed in fair condition.

The Honolulu Advertiser contributed to this article.