One of the most popular sightseeing options for tourist in Hawaii is a helicopter tour over the islands. Normally an epic experience with awesome views of waterfalls, mountains and the sea, a tour over Pearl Harbor yesterday Feb. 18 at about 10:30 a.m turned anything but that for five unfortunate visitors to Oahu when the chopper they were riding in crashed into the sea. According to eturbonews, “The Bell 206 aircraft made a hard landing and sank near the USS Arizona Memorial, a popular tourist destination on Oahu, said US Navy spokeswoman Agnes Tauyan.” All of the passengers were injured, one critically and rushed to a nearby hospital.” None of the names have been released. Additional coverage by the Star Advertiser reported that one of the passengers was a 16-year-old boy who was critically injured and taken to the hospital along with a 50-year-old man and 45-year-old woman who were in stable condition. The other two tourists were taken to the hospital by federal firefighters. No information was immediately available on their conditions. The Advertiser also reported that Chris Gardner, a Keawe Adventures guide, said he heard an “auto-rotation — and not much of an engine sound of the rotors” shortly before the helicopter crashed into waters about 10 feet offshore and flipped upside down. Gardner swam to the crash site in waters about 10 feet deep, and helped a federal police officer rescue an unconscious passenger from the helicopter. “One guy was still stuck,” Gardner said. “So I jumped in and tried to extract him.”
Eturbonews akso reported that federal records show the helicopter is registered to Jeffrey Gebhard of Kailua, Hawaii and that he wasn’t available for comment. The navy said in a statement that “the helicopter reportedly belongs to Genesis Aviation.” The company website said it conducts helicopter tours of Oahu. “We are told bystanders jumped in to help rescue these patients from the water,” said Shayne Enright, spokeswoman for Honolulu Emergency Services Department. Amber Moncrieff, a tourist from Australia, said she was visiting Pearl Harbor when she heard a couple of loud bangs and realized a helicopter had crashed into the water.
As happens in all such aviation incidents, Federal Aviation Administration investigators are on their way to the crash site. This was the second major crash this year involving helicopters on Oahu. Last January twelve Hawaii-based Marines were killed when two military helicopters crashed during night-time training. Both aircraft were CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters that were part of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463.
What a terrible tragedy for the tourists who had set out for what they expected to be a memorable sightseeing excursion over Oahu.