The pilot of the helicopter that crashed off Kaua’i’s North Shore in September, resulting in the deaths of three people, faces felony manslaughter charges.
Glen Lampton was indicted by members of a Kaua’i grand jury this week, and charged with “recklessly” causing the deaths of three visitors who were on a Heli USA Airways’ flight-seeing tour.
Company Vice President John Power said Thursday that Lampton was “not accessible.” He also said that Lampton is not flying for Heli USA.
Earlier, Power said Lampton would not be allowed to return to flying until an investigation was completed, and that he did not believe Lampton was still on Kaua’i.
Power said that he was surprised by the indictment and the charges brought against Lampton. He pointed out that the National Transportation Safety Board investigators have not come out with a final report about the crash.
“We are aware that the weather was a factor, and it was a very unusual weather pattern that day,” said Power.
Power also pointed out that Lampton’s helicopter was hit by heavy wind shear caused by a microburst, or a quickly-developing storm system with rain and wind. He also said Lampton wasn’t alone flying in the storm. Pilots of other tour helicopters were flying in that weather, Power said.
He indicated that the company leaders will continue to cooperate with federal and local officials.
“Our company has had over a million passengers. We take safety very seriously,” said Power.
“We are a community company,” continued Power. “The pilot got involved in a weather pattern along with other operators. Unfortunately, wind shear caused the aircraft to descend rapidly to the water level.”
The helicopter crashed in the afternoon of Sept. 23. Three of six people aboard died.
Catherine Baron and Mary H. Soucy, both of Portland, Maine, friends who was traveling together, died in the crash. Also killed were Laverne Clifton, 69, a male visitor from Beloit, Wis.
Survivors included pilot Lampton, and Karen and William Thorson of Beloit, Wis. Karen Thorson is the daughter of the deceased man.
The helicopter was about 23 minutes into a 45-minute flight-seeing tour that began about 1:54 p.m. when it encountered rough weather.
Lampton was indicted Monday, Dec. 19. According to the three-page indictment, he faces three manslaughter counts, and two counts of second-degree reckless endangering.
Lampton also faces one count of falsifying records, and one count of tampering with evidence, according to the indictment.
- Cynthia Kaneshiro, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or ckaneshiro@kauaipubco.