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Helicopter crash kills 4 at end of Kauai tour

The pilot, who had reported hydraulic problems, is among the dead. New safety rules take effect in August.

March 09, 2007|From the Associated Press

PRINCEVILLE, HAWAII — A tour helicopter crashed at an airport on the island of Kauai on Thursday, killing four people, including the pilot, and critically injuring three, officials said.

The crash occurred at Princeville Airport in midafternoon, shortly after a Heli-USA Airways helicopter pilot radioed that he was having hydraulic problems, according to a statement from Kauai Fire Chief Robert Westerman.

Nigel Turner, chief executive of Las Vegas-based Heli-USA, said the aircraft was at the end of its tour and minutes from its scheduled landing when it crashed.

"We are in the process of notifying the families of those individuals involved," he said, offering "our sincere condolences."

He continued: "We are working with authorities to find out exactly what happened."

Of the two men and two women who died, three were dead at the scene of the crash and one died on the way to a hospital, Kauai County spokeswoman Mary Daubert said.

The pilot, who was not identified, had more than 10,000 hours flying an A-Star, the type of helicopter that crashed, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.

The crash comes one month after the FAA announced new safety standards for air tour companies that operate at many vacation spots nationwide and for pilots who offer rides at air shows. The safety standards take effect in August.

The FAA promised to closely monitor deaths and other accidents involving air tours after looking into 107 accidents that killed 98 people from 1988 to 1995.

Five people were killed in 2004 when a helicopter operated by Bali Hai Helicopter Tours Inc. crashed into a mountain on Kauai. And three passengers drowned in 2005 after a Heli-USA helicopter plunged into the ocean off Kauai.

The National Transportation Safety Board said those two crashes were caused by bad decisions by pilots who continued flying in dangerous weather conditions.

Turner defended the safety of his helicopters. The company has a fleet of six in Hawaii; it also flies in Nevada.

"The company has flown over a million passengers. This is our second accident in a million people," he said.

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