Leader Blues

Friday, March 09, 2007

TOP STORY >>Helicopter crash kills a sightseer from Cabot

IN SHORT: Wife dies, but her husband survives Thursday accident while touring the island of Kauai.

Leader staff writer

A Cabot woman was killed after the sightseeing helicopter she and her husband were traveling in crashed on the Hawaiian island of Kauai Thursday afternoon.

Dead are Teri McCarty, as well as John O’Donnell of Rockaway, N.Y.; Margriet Inglebrecht of Santa Maria, Calif., and the pilot, Joe Sulak, of Hawaii.

McCarty died in the crash, but her husband James was taken to Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu in critical condition, along with two other passengers.

Three of the dead were killed on impact and a fourth died on the way to the hospital.

According to reports from KGMB television in Honolulu, the crash occurred as the pilot made a desperate attempt to get back to the airport because the chopper had developed hydraulic problems.

The A-Star executive helicopter, operated by the Heli USA tour company, crashed at the edge of the airport on the north shore of Kauai.

Witnesses reported hearing a loud boom as far as a mile away and the sound of crunching metal as the helicopter hit the ground about 200 yards from its normal landing pad. Witnesses said the impact of the crash destroyed the front half of the aircraft. 

The pilot was about two miles away from the Princeville airport when he radioed his dispatcher, reporting hydraulic problems, which had developed shortly after the tour began. 

The chopper made it back, but it crashed on the northwest end of the airport.  

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said that the pilot had more than 10,000 hours flying an A-Star, the model that crashed.
The craft itself had showed no significant problems in past FAA inspections, he said.

According to the FAA, the pilot was flying under visual flight rules. People in the area say the weather was clear.
“To help out with the situation we are going to put an assistance center to help with the families of the victims,” said Scott Ishikawa, Department of Transportation spokesman.

The spectacular scenic tour, which costs $240 per person, takes passengers across the lush 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.
He defended the safety of his helicopters, which also fly tours in Nevada.

“The company has flown over a million passengers.

This is our second accident in a million people,” he said.
He said he wouldn’t hesitate to put his own family in his helicopters.