NTSB to recover Kauai helicopter wreckage for examination; no survivors confirmed

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — UPDATE 1/2/20: The NTSB has begun the wreckage recovery process on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020.

They said that they will be moving the helicopter wreckage to a secure location, where investigators can examine it.


UPDATE 12/31/19 The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that investigators are developing plans to recover the wreckage of the helicopter crash. NTSB announced on their website:

“The NTSB dispatched a team of four, led by Investigator-In-Charge Brice Banning, that includes experts in airworthiness, operations and family assistance. They arrived on Kauai Sunday evening. Other investigators, including a meteorologist, are working from NTSB headquarters in Washington.

NTSB photo by Brice Banning

“On Monday, December 30, 2019, Banning flew over the crash site to evaluate the accident site conditions and photo document the wreckage path. In the coming days the wreckage will be moved to a secure location where investigators will conduct a more thorough examination of the recovered evidence. Details and timing are still being worked out.

“A preliminary report documenting facts collected on scene will be issued on ntsb.gov within three weeks of the crash date. The final report, which will contain a finding of probable cause and any safety recommendations, will be issued at the end of the investigation, which could take 12-24 months. The reports and any future updates will be posted to this accident web page.”

***

Agencies continued recovery efforts on Saturday, December 28, for a helicopter crash that happened in Kōkeʻe on Thursday night, December 26.

After additional recovery efforts, the nature of the crash and impact damage, Kaua‘i police can confirm that there are no survivors.

According to preliminary reports from a flight manifest, Kaua‘i police believe that there were seven people on board.

The pilot has been identified as 69-year-old Paul Matero of Wailua. Two of the six passengers were identified as 47-year-old Amy Gannon and 13-year-old Jocelyn Gannon of Madison, Wisconsin.

The four other passengers are believed to be a family from Switzerland — a 50-year-old female, 49-year-old male, 13-year-old female, and a 10-year old female.

Their names have not yet been released.

Autopsies to positively confirm all identities are still pending.

“We offer our continued condolences and prayers to the families and friends of the victims,” said KPD Assistant Chief Bryson Ponce. “As we continue to search for and recover evidence pertinent to this tragic helicopter crash, we hope to bring some sense of closure to the loved ones of the victims.”

Recovery efforts were suspended Saturday afternoon, Dec. 28. The scene has been turned over for further investigation to the National Transportation Safety Board.


Kauai Fire Battalion Chief Solomon Kanoho confirmed on Friday, December 27, that the flight manifest of the tour helicopter that crashed in Koke’e showed seven aboard. However, only six sets of remains have been recovered. He declined to discuss the conditions that the wreckage was found in, pending family notifications.

There are no indications of survivors.”

Kauai Fire Department Battalion Chief Solomon Kanoho

The DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) has closed a portion of Public Hunting Unit H in the Pu‘u ka Pele Forest Reserve until further notice. The closed portion of the hunting unit is bounded by Makaha Ridge Rd., Kokee Rd., Nualolo Trail and the coastline. Please note that Miloli‘i Road and Nu’alolo trail within this area are both closed. This is due to continuing search and recovery efforts. Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officers will be stationed at entry points to inform hunters and others.

2 p.m. update: The wreckage of the tour helicopter that disappeared Thursday evening was found in a remote area of Kokee. Search crews found debris and were able to positively identify the aircraft as the one that had been missing.

We’re working very hard to have this operation be successful.”

Kauai Mayor Kawakami

Kauai officials confirmed that in addition to the pilot, two sets of families were aboard the helicopter: a party of two and a party of four. Ground crews are still searching for survivors and officials are establishing contact with the family of those on the flight manifest.

Our thoughts are with the families of those onboard as search and rescue crews work at the site of the helicopter crash on Kaua’i. The State of Hawai’i has offered its support as rescue and recovery efforts continue and will do whatever it can to assist with the federal investigation.”

Governor David Ige

“While the helicopter was likely returning from a Na Pali Coast tour, it crashed at the top of the mountain,” Dan Dennison of the Department of Land and Natural Resources verified.

11:55 a.m. update: The crash site of the helicopter missing since Thursday afternoon has been confirmed in Koke‘e near Nu‘alolo. Seven individuals were on the flight, including one pilot and six passengers.

Additional resources are on the way and the search for survivors is ongoing.

“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these passengers,” said Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami. “Operations continue and we are doing everything we can at this time.”

At approximately 6 p.m. Thursday, officials were notified of an overdue Safari Helicopter that was conducting a tour over the Nā Pali area. The helicopter was scheduled to arrive around 5:30 p.m. at the Līhu‘e landing pad. According to a preliminary report, the last contact with the helicopter was made at approximately 4:40 p.m., when the pilot relayed that the tour was leaving the Waimea Canyon area.


10 a.m. update: Multiple agencies are continuing to search Friday for a commercial helicopter that was reported missing Thursday evening.

At approximately 6 p.m. Thursday, officials were notified of an overdue Safari Helicopter that was conducting a tour over the Nā Pali area. The helicopter, with six passengers and a pilot on board, was scheduled to arrive around 5:30 p.m. at the Līhu‘e landing pad. According to a preliminary report, the last contact with the helicopter was made at approximately 4:40 p.m., when the pilot relayed that the tour was leaving the Waimea Canyon area.

Upon notification, a multi-agency search was launched Thursday night with the U.S. Coast Guard responding via air and sea, and personnel from the Kaua‘i Fire Department, Kaua‘i Police Department, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Hawai‘i Air National Guard, and Pacific Missile Range Facility joining the effort on land. However, there have been no sign of the helicopter.

Search operations continued early Friday morning with air searches being conducted by the Kaua‘i Fire Department, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, Civil Air Patrol, and private helicopter companies. The U.S. Coast Guard is also continuing its sea-based search. A land and shoreline is also being coordinated at this time.

All agencies will continue search efforts throughout the day.


Update: The Coast Guard, working with partners, is establishing an incident command post on Kauai in response to the missing commercial helicopter, Friday.

“The search continues for the seven people and any sign of the aircraft on Kauai,” said Lt. Chloe Harmon, command duty officer, Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu. “We appreciate the substantial assistance of our partners to continue the search overnight and maximize search efforts in the area.”

A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane crew and MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Barbers Point will conduct first light searches. A Coast Guard Station Kauai 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew will also arrive on the scene at first light and search.

The Coast Guard Cutter William Hart (WPC 1134) will arrive in the search area around 8:30 a.m. The U.S. Navy Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 37 MH-60R Seahawk helicopter crew will launch for a search at 9 a.m. Further Department of Defense air support, with the approval of the Pacific Air Forces, has come from the Civil Air Patrol for additional search efforts in the morning.

In addition to military support, Kauai Fire Department is coordinating local efforts from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Kauai National Guard, and commercial helicopter support. KFD will also provide their Air-1 helicopter for inland canyon searches beginning at first light.

Upon notification, just after 6 p.m. Thursday of the overdue helicopter, Coast Guard watchstanders at JRCC Honolulu initiated an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast, launched a Coast Guard Dolphin aircrew, contacted DoD for HSM-37 Seahawk support, and launched the William Hart.

KFD was contacted and is coordinating ground searches of the shoreline. Barking Sands Security also organized ATV searches of the coastline. There are no signs of the helicopter.

The Dolphin helicopter crew conducted three search patterns for the evening along the northwest portion of Kauai. The HSM-37 Seahawk crew flew a five-hour search of the northwest shoreline area.


We’re waiting on an update from the Coast Guard after a tour helicopter went missing off the coast of Kauai.

According to the Coast Guard, the owner of the helicopter says that the aircraft was due back around 5:20 p.m. Thursday from a tour of the Na Pali Coast, but it never showed up.

One pilot and six passengers were on board.

Two passengers are reportedly minors.

So far, the Coast Guard has not named the tour company involved.

The aircraft had an electronic locator, however officials say that there has been no signal from the device.

Officials say that the weather conditions have made the search challenging.

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