Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Inflight Upset: Robinson R44 Clipper, N808NV; fatal accident occurred April 29, 2019 in Kailua, Hawaii

Aviation Accident Factual Report - National Transportation Safety Board 

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Honolulu, Hawaii
Robinson Helicopters; Torrance, California
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania 
Novictor Aviation LLC; Honolulu, Hawaii

Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Location: Kailua, Hawaii
Accident Number: WPR19FA123
Date & Time: April 29, 2019, 09:10 Local 
Registration: N808NV
Aircraft: Robinson R44
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event: Inflight upset
Injuries: 3 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 135: Air taxi & commuter - Non-scheduled - Sightseeing

On April 29, 2019, about 0910 Hawaii-Aleutian standard time, a Robinson R-44 helicopter, N808NV, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Kailua, Hawaii. The commercial pilot and two passengers were fatally injured. The helicopter was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 135 air tour flight.

The accident helicopter and another of the operator's helicopters departed from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Honolulu, Hawaii, about 0854 for an island tour. Radar, ADS-B, and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control (ATC) data indicated that the helicopters flew east along the south shore of the island. They then turned to the northwest; at 0907:58, the pilot of the accident helicopter reported that he was over Bellows Air Force Base requesting a northwest transition. The controller approved the transition, and about 13 seconds later, the second helicopter pilot made the same request. About 1 minute later, the controller asked the two helicopters, "How is the weather looking over Kailua right now?" The second helicopter pilot reported that the weather was "still VFR, but it's getting a little bit harder to see"; that helicopter subsequently turned toward the water. About 10 seconds later, the pilot of the accident helicopter, who was further inland and approaching Kailua, contacted the controller and stated that he wanted to alter his course in the same manner. The controller approved and informed both pilots to maintain flight at or above 600 ft. The accident helicopter started a right turn toward the water at a ground speed of about 108 knots and acknowledged the altitude assignment. There were no further transmissions from the accident helicopter. 

The accident helicopter continued toward the water for about 1/2 nautical mile (nm) before it made a left turn further inland over Kailua and its ground speed decreased from about 108 knots to 104 knots.  Shortly thereafter, the helicopter's ground speed started to decrease to about 100 knots, and it made a gradual right turn parallel to a roadway; its ground speed continued to decrease to about 92 knots. About 0.19 mile from the accident site, the helicopter was at 1,700 ft above ground level (agl) when it entered an abrupt descent and track information ended about 0.11 mile from the accident site. The last data point indicated that the helicopter was about 1,425 ft agl with a vertical descent rate of 7,360 ft per minute. At the time of the accident, the second helicopter was about 2.5 miles to the southeast over the water. That pilot did not witness the accident and the helicopter continued its flight uneventfully to HNL. 

A witness reported that she was standing outside when she heard the accident helicopter flying overhead; it sounded very low and loud. She looked up but did not see the helicopter due to heavy cloud cover, and she assumed that the helicopter was either inside of or on top of the clouds. About 10 seconds later, she heard what sounded like metal hitting metal, followed by the sound of ripping metal. One second later, she saw a piece of the main rotor blade below the clouds. The piece spiraled down on an angle, in kind of an "elliptical pattern." She never saw the helicopter.

Other witnesses reported that they heard the helicopter overhead but did not look up until they heard an odd noise followed by a loud metallic bang. One witness reported that when he looked up, the helicopter pitched forward, tilted to one side, and entered a nosedive. He also observed a piece of the rotor blade detach and fall away from the helicopter. He noted that nothing was moving, and there were no helicopter noises; it seemed like the helicopter stopped in midair and started to freefall. The helicopter impacted the street and a post-crash fire ensued.

A security camera near the accident site showed overcast skies. The helicopter could be heard approaching followed by a loud crashing sound. Shortly thereafter, the helicopter could be seen falling through the frame. The helicopter appeared to be in a freefall on its side; one main rotor blade was completely stopped, and the second blade was not visible. The tail boom was bent at about a 90° angle and extended upward.

Pilot Information

Certificate: Commercial; Flight instructor
Age: 28,Male
Airplane Rating(s): None
Seat Occupied: Right
Other Aircraft Rating(s): Helicopter
Restraint Used: 3-point
Instrument Rating(s): Helicopter
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): Helicopter; Instrument helicopter
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 2 Without waivers/limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: October 3, 2018
Occupational Pilot: Yes 
Last Flight Review or Equivalent: April 19, 2019
Flight Time: 540 hours (Total, all aircraft), 340 hours (Total, this make and model), 470 hours (Pilot In Command, all aircraft), 135 hours (Last 90 days, all aircraft), 6 hours (Last 24 hours, all aircraft)

The operator reported that the pilot was hired by the company about 2 1/2 weeks before the accident. The pilot completed company training for Part 135 operations on April 19, 2019, then completed one week of tour-specific training. He began taking passengers on tours about 3 days before the accident. The accident flight was the pilot's first flight on the day of the accident. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Robinson
Registration: N808NV
Model/Series: R44 
Aircraft Category: Helicopter
Year of Manufacture: 2000
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal 
Serial Number: 0926
Landing Gear Type: Skid 
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: April 21, 2019 100 hour 
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2400 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection: 39 Hrs 
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 6242 Hrs as of last inspection 
Engine Manufacturer: Lycoming
ELT: C126 installed, not activated 
Engine Model/Series: O-540
Registered Owner: 
Rated Power: 260 Horsepower
Operating Certificate(s) Held: Commuter air carrier (135)

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual (VMC)
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: PHNG,23 ft msl
Distance from Accident Site: 3 Nautical Miles
Observation Time: 08:57 Local 
Direction from Accident Site: 345°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Clear
Visibility:  4 miles
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 1800 ft AGL
Visibility (RVR):
Wind Speed/Gusts: 8 knots /
Turbulence Type Forecast/Actual: None / None
Wind Direction: 30° 
Turbulence Severity Forecast/Actual: N/A / N/A
Altimeter Setting: 29.98 inches Hg
Temperature/Dew Point: 24°C / 20°C
Precipitation and Obscuration: Light - None - Rain
Departure Point: Honolulu, HI (HNL)
Type of Flight Plan Filed: Company VFR
Destination: Honolulu, HI (HNL)
Type of Clearance: None
Departure Time: 09:10 Local 
Type of Airspace:

The Pacific Surface Analysis for 0800 indicated a surface trough located over the northwestern Hawaiian Islands in the vicinity of the accident site. Troughs can act as lifting mechanisms to help produce clouds and precipitation if sufficient moisture is present. With the trade winds and mountainous terrain, there was sufficient moisture and lift for rain shower and thunderstorm formation. The station model near the accident site depicted an east wind of 20 knots. 

At 0800, a Global Data Assimilation System sounding for the accident site indicated a conditionally unstable environment from the surface through 12,500 ft mean sea level (msl). If rain showers or thunderstorms formed in this environment, the sounding indicated that the strongest wind speed possible at the surface from any downdraft or outflow wind was 37 knots. The sounding also indicated a favorable environment for a downdraft, outflow boundary, or gust front from rain showers or thunderstorms which can create an environment favorable for unexpected changes in wind direction and speed. There were no indications of additional low-level wind shear or clear-air turbulence from the surface through 14,000 ft msl.

Satellite imagery depicted a band of cumuliform clouds located above the accident site at the accident time. The cloud cover and cumuliform bands were moving from east to west in the low-level wind flow. In addition, weather surveillance radar indicated light to moderate intensity echoes above the accident site at the time of the accident and along the helicopter's flightpath. The rain shower activity was expanding in area coverage with time. The weather surveillance radar reflectivity values indicated a descending core of 20 to 30 dBZ values descending towards the surface between 0907 and 0915 from above the accident site.

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-ground
Ground Injuries: N/A 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 21.403333,-157.76445(est)

The wreckage came to rest in a residential area. The debris field was about 1/4-mile long and extended along a heading of about 009° magnetic. The first identified pieces of debris were a piece of plexiglass and carpet. Directly northeast of the first identified pieces of debris, and slightly out of the main debris path, was the outboard third of one main rotor blade, which came to rest in a fence. Following the first identified pieces of debris along the debris path was a large area of scattered left side airframe and cockpit components followed by other items from the cabin area and the main fuel tank, which was separated from the airframe and located about 70 yards south of the main wreckage.

The helicopter came to rest on its left side on a roadway and a large portion of the forward left side fuselage was not present at the main wreckage. The remaining portions of the left side of the helicopter exhibited damage consistent with contact from the main rotor blade. The left cabin seats exhibited damage outboard to inboard. The left corner of the instrument console was bent inward toward the
passenger compartment. The aft cabin, main rotor driveshaft and assembly, and engine exhibited postimpact fire damage. The main rotor blades remained attached to the main rotor hub and exhibited extensive damage. The blue main rotor blade was bent 90° about midspan.

The tail boom remained attached to the fuselage; the forward portion of the tail boom exhibited areas of crush damage. The horizontal and vertical stabilizers were mostly intact and exhibited some crush damage. The tail skid tube was not damaged. The tail rotor assembly remained attached to the airframe and was relatively undamaged; the tail rotor blades exhibited limited, non-rotational, impact-related damage.

During a postaccident examination of the airframe, the tail rotor and main rotor flight controls were visually traced and mostly present. All of the fractured surfaces were consistent with overload. The main rotor driveshaft was seized and would not rotate by hand; it was bent about a 20° angle above the swashplate. Arc-shaped scoring was observed on both sides of the main rotor hub adjacent to the pitch horns. Both teeter stops were crushed, and the driveshaft was dented. The droop stop bolt at the nut end was sheared but remained in place. The main rotor blades were removed from the hub and examined. The afterbody of the blue blade exhibited damage consistent with the shape of the left skid toe. The red main rotor blade was bent near the hub, and about one-third of the outboard tip was fracture-separated and found earlier in the wreckage debris path. Slightly inboard from about halfway, on the lower side of the red blade, was a spanwise dent that extended about 45 inches. Within the dent were equally spaced score marks consistent with the row of screws in the windshield bow.

The upper sheave of the drivetrain exhibited rotational scoring on the forward face along with scoring on nearby support tubes. Three of the V-belts were fracture-separated consistent with overload; one remained intact but was no longer seated in its groove. The tail rotor driveshaft exhibited three breaks throughout. A small section was separated and not present; there was no apparent twisting at the fracture points.

The vertical firewall exhibited severe impact damage to its left and lower sides. The cooling fan exhibited rotational scoring on its aft face, and the lower half of the cooling fan was flat at the 6 o'clock position. The oil cooler exhibited an approximate 1-inch-deep indentation from the starter ring gear; the indentation exhibited both grinding and teeth impression marks.

Postaccident examination of the engine did not reveal any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation.

Additional Information

The accident helicopter was equipped with a semirigid rotor system. The FAA Helicopter Flying Handbook states, in part: this system usually has two blades that are rigidly mounted to the main rotor hub. The main rotor hub is free to tilt with respect to the main rotor shaft on what is known as a teetering or flapping hinge. If [rotor] flapping exceeds the design value, the static stop will contact the mast...This contact must be avoided at all costs. 

Helicopters rely on positive G to provide much or all of their response to pilot control inputs. Low-G conditions can be catastrophic for two-bladed helicopters. Turbulence and severe downdrafts can also cause a low-G condition, and when combined with high airspeed, may lead to the static stop impacting the mast. The accident sequence may be extremely rapid, and the energy and inertia in the rotor system can sever the mast or allow rotor blades to strike the tail or other portions of the helicopter.”

Robinson Safety Notice SN-32, "High Winds or Turbulence," states that a pilot's improper application of control inputs in response to turbulence can increase the likelihood of a mast bumping accident. It recommends that pilots reduce airspeed below normal cruise speed to 60-70 knots in significant turbulence, and states that pilots should allow for momentary airspeed, heading, altitude, and rpm
excursions during flight in turbulent conditions and use gentle control inputs to restore the helicopter to level flight in order to avoid overcontrolling.

Medical and Pathological Information

An autopsy of the pilot was performed by the Department of the Medical Examiner, City and County of Honolulu, Hawaii. The cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries.

Toxicology testing performed at the FAA Forensic Sciences Laboratory was negative for carbon monoxide, ethanol, and tested-for drugs.

Family released this image of Jan Burgess amid their grieving, saying family members back in Australia are coming together to mourn the loss of the beloved mother, grandparent and friend.

Ryan McAuliffe

Joseph Gilbert Edward Berridge of Garfield, NM was a blessing that entered this world on January 19, 1991 in Las Cruces, NM. 

Joseph “Brother Bear” was guided towards the light into the Heavens on April 29, 2019 at the age of 28.  He was raised in a family full of unconditional love. After graduating from Hatch Valley High School and attending New Mexico State University he moved to Albuquerque with his fiancé, Chelsea, to pursue one of his many dreams of becoming a helicopter pilot.  After achieving this dream, he went on to instruct other pilots while flying for a news station.  

In early April of this year Joseph took a job offer in Hawaii to be a helicopter pilot tour guide. Joseph had a passion for doing many things and being a pilot in Hawaii was just one of them.  Brother was the heart, soul, and backbone of the Hatch Valley.  He brought joy wherever he went. You would never catch him without his trademark smile, it was almost as big as his heart.  Joseph was an extraordinary young man that lit up everyone’s world; emitting a light of love to those around him… He truly was a gift from God. His ultimate dream was to travel the world with Chelsea and provide endlessly for his loved ones. 

Joseph was an inspiration to all, always striving to be the best at anything he did and proving that anything can be done if you set your mind to it. Needless to say, he was a Professional Bad Ass. Whether friend, family, or stranger, Joseph treated everyone with love. Brother was a handsome and fearless young man with a kind, loving soul who was full of courage and full of heart.  He loved his friends with the same passion as he did his family. 

Joseph brought more good to this world than he took. He was loved and will continue to be loved by all who knew him. Joseph lives on through the memories within his parents, Bobby and Terry Berridge (Gutierrez), fiancé, Chelsea Fancher, sister, Alexandria Sheffield (Berridge) and brother-in-law, Lindsey Sheffield, aunts and uncles from both the Gutierrez and Berridge families, grandparents, and countless cousins and friends. Please join us as we say our goodbyes to brother Jojo and our farewell wishes to his new life in heaven.  Visitation for family and friends will take place at Kirikos Family Funeral Home located at 303 N. Cedar Street in T. or C., NM on Friday, May 10, 2019 from 5:00 to 7:00 P.M.  On Saturday, May 11, 2019, the services will take place at 10:00 A.M. in the pecan orchard located on the corner of Railroad Road and Browning Road in Hatch, NM then proceeding to Hatch Garden of Memories Cemetery.  A gathering will be held at 6800 North Hwy 187 in Garfield, NM following the services.  The family would like if everyone could wear royal blue. Joseph is a Forever Eagle.  


The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office this morning released the identity of the third person killed in a Kailua helicopter crash.

She has been identified as Jan Burgess, 76, of Australia.

The names of the other two victims, released by the office on Tuesday, were Joseph G. Berridge, 28, and Ryan McAuliffe, 28, of Chicago, Illinois.  Berridge had just moved to Honolulu from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to fly tour helicopters, his father said.

McAuliffe and Burgess were the two female passengers on board the Robinson R44 operated by Novictor Helicopters.

At about 9:15 a.m. on Monday, their helicopter crashed on Oneawa Street in Kailua, killing everyone on board, and scattered debris throughout several blocks of the residential neighborhood. The cause of death for all three was “multiple blunt force injuries due to helicopter crash.” No other injuries were reported.

Staff from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were at the site throughout Tuesday conducting an on-site investigation. On Tuesday evening, crews removed the helicopter wreckage with a crane and flatbed truck. City officials reported the section of Oneawa Street by Kalolina Street, which had been closed during the on-site investigation, had reopened as of 7:21 p.m. Tuesday.

NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said, generally, the on-scene investigation lasts several days, with a preliminary report issued within two weeks. The preliminary report will list the facts discovered during the on-scene investigation, but will not address the cause of the accident.

Today, the NTSB investigators are examining the airframe and engine at a facility and meeting with the operator, Novictor Helicopters. The helicopter took off at about 8:54 a.m. from Honolulu in good weather, said Weiss, and crashed at about 9:15 a.m. Witnesses observed the helicopter with a low nose, descending rapidly, with none of the rotor blades moving before it fell straight down.

The full report, with probable cause, typically takes between 12 to 24 months.


Joseph Berridge

Fabian Salazar,  Air Safety Investigator 
National Transportation Safety Board

Joseph Berridge

KAILUA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Federal and local authorities are teaming up to figure out how a tour helicopter spun out of control and crashed nose-first on a busy Kailua roadway, bursting into flames and killing three people.

Oneawa Street remained closed on Tuesday morning, almost a day after the crash, where investigators continued to examine the wreckage and debris that were still scattered across the roadway.

“We’ll be focusing our investigation on this particular aircraft and as we discover or uncover trends or commonalities, we will give those discoveries their due diligence,” said Fabian Salazar, air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board.

Salazar, one of four NTSB investigators who arrived in Hawaii on Tuesday morning, said they’ll be looking at several factors, including the wreckage itself, the pilot and environmental factors.

Meanwhile, family members were mourning those lost in the crash.

Family members identified the pilot as 28-year-old Joseph Berridge. His grandmother told Hawaii News Now that he loved to fly ― and that he’d move to Hawaii just 20 days ago.

Two female passengers were also killed in the crash. They have not yet been identified, but the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii said one of those killed was from Australia.

The crash on Oneawa Street about 9 a.m. produced a shocking scene for drivers and nearby residents, who rushed to the site in the slim hope that someone on board had survived.

“A Marine officer in a flight suit came running up. He was the first there and started trying to unbuckle the seat belt,” said Evan Strouse. “Me and him started dragging him out.”

Strouse said he and the Marine managed to pull one from the burning aircraft.

“I want to think that the pilot tried to hit the road because it’s crazy that this helicopter landed in the road and avoided all the other houses around it,” Strouse said.

Bystanders aimed their garden hoses at the fire to try to put out the blaze.

“Neighbors were doing a heroic effort trying to put out the fire and also trying to get the patients away from the burning aircraft,” said Shayne Enright, spokeswoman for the city Emergency Services Department. She confirmed all three victims were pronounced dead at the scene.

Witness Tehani Alo said she saw the helicopter spinning out of control before it came crashing down.

“It sounded like hell landing,” she said.

Another resident described the crash this way: “Horrible.”

The Robinson R44 Clipper was owned by tour company Novictor Helicopters. In a statement, the company said it’s working closely with the FAA and NTSB on the investigation.

“This accident is heartbreaking for everyone, especially the families and friends of the passengers and pilot, who was part of our Novictor family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of them,” the company said. “The safety and welfare of our personnel and passengers are our top priority.”

Witness Adrian Kozuki, who lives nearby, said he was in his backyard when the crash happened.

“I heard the helicopter in the air and all of a sudden I heard a pop, like a blast kind of thing,” he said. Then, within 15 seconds, he said he could see smoke coming out.

The crash sent debris onto nearby homes, properties and cars across at least eight separate properties.

At least one vehicle was significantly damaged when a fuel tank landed on its hood. One homeowner retrieved a cell phone from a rooftop. Another found a shoe in their backyard.

Mike Cunningham was driving when he saw the chopper crash about 20 feet in front of him.

He said the helicopter came down “very hard, nose first.”

“I saw the wires shaking, and right after that the wires broke and a helicopter came crashing through the trees,” Cunningham said, adding that as soon as it hit the ground, it was already on fire.

“I don’t see how anybody could’ve walked away from it,” Cunningham said. “It was in flames immediately. And you couldn’t get close to it.”

Lisa Dow lives about two blocks from where the chopper came down, and said she heard the helicopter in the air and then the sound of the crash.

She said the chopper “pretty much disintegrated” on impact.

“It’s horrible,” she said. “The blessing is that nobody on the ground got hit.”

Added witness Vanessa Solomon: “The saddest part was knowing that there were people falling out of the sky. It was hard to see that."

Police Lt. Wayne Wong said it’s remarkable that no one on the ground was injured when the helicopter came down. “Oneawa is a busy street, especially in the morning hours,” he said.

“People going to work. People going to school. It could have impacted a bigger part of the community.”

Melissa Solomon was driving down Oneawa Street with her daughter when the helicopter came down about 70 feet ahead of their car.

She says her instinct was to get her daughter away from danger and to call 911 as nearby residents rushed to the scene to see what happened ―and to try to help.

“I said, ‘oh my God, I don’t know what to do,’” she said.

The noise of the crash shook Ikona Kaapana’s house.

“When it was falling, it wasn’t on fire,” he said. “It was all black and there was no propellers and it was on it’s side when it was falling. We heard it land and it just went up in smoke."

Honolulu police have shut down all lanes of Oneawa Street near Kalolina Street as authorities investigate, and they anticipate the thoroughfare will remain shut down through Tuesday.

Novictor was involved in a separate helicopter crash in October.

In that incident, a Robinson R-44 crashed just off the Kaneohe sand bar after the pilot reportedly had a medical emergency and passed out. A couple visiting from Chicago was seriously injured in the crash.

The chopper crash is also the second this month.

Earlier in April, a helicopter went down near Sacred Falls after an apparent engine failure.

The Paradise Helicopters aircraft was contracted by the state Land Department, and crashed into trees before hitting the ground.

In that incident, all four people on board the helicopter refused transport to the hospital.

Story and video ➤ https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Family members said the 28-year-old pilot killed Monday in a helicopter crash in Kailua had moved to the islands just 20 days ago.

They identified the pilot as Joseph Berridge, and said he loved to fly.

His grandmother said he’d accepted a job with Novictor Helicopters from New Mexico.

Meanwhile, the Visitor Aloha Society said one of the two passengers in the downed craft was from Australia. The third passenger was visiting from the mainland.

Details on those killed in the crash come as the investigation into what caused the helicopter to come down continue. NTSB investigators are examining the wreckage, which has not yet been moved from the scene on Oneawa Street.

The chopper crashed on the busy Kailua street about 9 a.m. Monday, and all three victims were pronounced dead at the scene.

A tour helicopter careened through a crowded Kailua neighborhood before nose-diving onto Oneawa Street shortly after 9 a.m. Monday, igniting on impact and killing all three people on board.

The helicopter spun out of control in the rain and shed parts over several blocks of the neighborhood, scattering metal, plastic and other debris including a cellphone as it plunged to the ground. But no injuries to bystanders were reported.

“I was on my back porch on the phone, and I heard what sounded like a very sick helicopter very near my home,” said Susan Peterson, who lives on Kaiemi Street. “As I stepped out I heard a big pop, and I looked; right then there’s a rotor blade going one way and a helicopter the other way.”

“I’m all ‘Where do I run?’ because they were still up pretty high,” she said. “But as I’m thinking, ‘Where do I run?’ they just go down, boom.”

The maroon aircraft, a four-seat Robinson R44 operated by Novictor Helicopters, crashed in front of 745 Oneawa St., near Nowela Place.

Sommer Birkett, a beautician, had a clear view of the accident unfolding from her second-floor living room in an alley off Oneawa Street, right where the helicopter went down.

“It sounded like a missile hit a plane,” Birkett said. “I heard this loud sshhhh- boom! I was like, ‘What the hell is that?’ I looked out the window, and I saw the helicopter nose-dive onto Oneawa Street.”

“There were no flames or anything when it fell — that happened after it plummeted,” Birkett said. “Something happened with the helicopter; something went wrong with it where it stopped working.”

“I feel like it was on a movie screen, right in front of my eyes,” she said. “I cannot believe what I saw. It’s unreal.”

Emergency Medical Services was responding to another call in the area when workers heard a horrific bang, according to Shayne Enright, spokeswoman for the city Department of Emergency Services.

“They turned around and saw the helicopter on fire,” Enright said. “When they got there, neighbors were doing a heroic job trying to put out the fire and also trying to get the patients away from the burning aircraft. EMS assisted, got two of the patients from the burning aircraft, but at that time the two were deceased.”

Honolulu Police Lt. Wayne Wong said the department received multiple calls about the crashed helicopter at 9:12 a.m.

“It fell directly on the roadway,” Wong said. “It may have clipped some power lines in the area.”

“Oneawa is a very busy street, especially during the morning hours,” Wong added. “People going to work, people going to school. It could have impacted a bigger part of the community. So we’re just fortunate that it (was) … isolated to that one area.”

Stephen P. Lum said he heard an rotorcraft hovering overhead and then the sound of objects banging against the wall of his home at 535-A Olomana St.

“The items that struck the wall was like a baseball hitting the wall,” he said.

He walked out to his backyard and found pieces of metal strewn on the grass and a dial that resembled a clock from a dashboard. There were also a pair of designer glasses. Across the fence at the adjacent Kailua Racquet Club, he spotted a mirror and a cellphone.

Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Scot Seguirant said firefighters responded to a call at 9:13 a.m. and arrived on the scene at 9:18 a.m. to find neighbors fighting the fire with garden hoses. Firefighters took over, brought it under control by 9:23 a.m. and extinguished it at 9:40 a.m.

The helicopter, whose tail number was N808NV, was operated by Novictor Helicopters, which is run by Nicole Vandelaar, who founded it in 2011. A woman who answered the phone at Novictor on Monday declined to comment, saying, “At this time we cannot release any information.”

Novictor advertises Oahu tours starting at $180 for Pearl Harbor to Diamond Head and going up to $315 for a full island tour, according to its website.

Two FAA inspectors were dispatched to the crash site, Gregor said. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate, with NTSB the lead agency.

State Rep. Cynthia Thielen, who represents the area, said tour helicopters should not have been flying in the neighborhood.

“My heart goes out to the victims of this horrific helicopter crash in Kailua,” she said in a statement. “This happened in our residential area, where the only helicopters flying should be emergency, military and police-related — not tourism-related or commercial helicopters that kill and endanger occupants and people on the ground.”

She called for grounding all tour helicopters “until the authorities have assessed this situation.”

The FAA registry shows that the helicopter that crashed is owned by United Helicopter Leasing LLC, which shares the same Kapalulu Place address as Novictor Helicopters and Novictor Aviation LLC. It was manufactured in 2000.

Novictor was also the operator of a Robinson R44 helicopter that crashed onto the Kaneohe Bay sandbar on Oct. 22. A preliminary report from the NTSB on that crash said the pilot reported losing consciousness and that one of the passengers grabbed the controls to slow its descent.

Megan Lacy, a visitor from Alabama, heard a big crash Monday morning and went to the driveway near the corner of Oneawa and Kalolina streets only to find the front end of her rental car smashed by a helicopter part.

“At first I thought it sounded like a big old car accident,” Lacy said. “I looked left and saw the car like that, and then we see smoke coming up, so we walk over there to see what’s going on. … We found the fuel tank right over there, from the helicopter.”

A piece of debris from the aircraft also struck the car of one motorist driving on Oneawa Street, but she was not hurt, Enright said.

The Kailua Racquet Club was littered with pieces of glass and metal on the courts and grassy areas, according to Bruce Nagel, general manager.

“The debris was considerable,” Nagel said. “It looked like some parts from the helicopter — pieces of aluminum. There was actually a cellphone on the property. There was mostly Plexiglas all around the property.”

“Thankfully it was raining at the time so tennis players were under cover,” he wrote in an email to members, informing them that the club shut down Monday after the crash for the FAA to investigate the debris.

Police advised anyone who finds items that might be debris from the helicopter not to pick them up, but to call 911 so an officer can respond.

The Rev. Ricky Bermudez, a Keolu Hills resident whose family lives in the neighborhood where the chopper went down, said he has been advocating for a no-fly zone around the community. He said he called Novictor several times to complain, but the manager never returned his calls. He described the Robinson R44 as “the cheapest helicopter you can buy.”

Story and video ➤ https://www.staradvertiser.com

No comments:

Post a Comment