Another crash, another death: 1 dies, 4 survive in second crash on North Shore

One person died and three were injured yesterday in the second helicopter accident on-island within the past four days.

Dozens of eyewitnesses from Makua, commonly known as Tunnels Beach, said they saw a helicopter violently spinning before it crashed around 1 p.m. near the YMCA-Camp Nauea in Ha‘ena.

Of the five onboard, one male passenger died and another male passenger was in critical condition, Mary Daubert, county spokeswoman, said. Two female passengers were in fair condition and the pilot, a 30-year-old male, was unharmed.

The helicopter, a Hughes 500, is owned by Inter Island Helicopters, whose spokesman Floyd Ingram declined to comment.

The crash marks the second fatal accident within a week, as a Heli-USA tour helicopter killed four and injured three on Thursday at the Princeville Airport.

Throngs of neighbors tried to help the victims yesterday in the immediate aftermath of the crash, including former medic and firefighter Winston Welborn.

Welborn ran to the scene and used surfboards as makeshift stretchers after he couldn’t get through to 911.

“When I called, I got a recording,” Welborn said. “So I left the phone off the hook and came out here.”

Though it’s been roughly four years since he has responded to an emergency, Welborn said his training came back to him.

“We were thinking about the rescuers’ safety and the victims’, too,” he said.

Kelly Mills, who was on the beach when she heard a loud noise that “sounded like a backfire,” said the chopper spun for what seemed to be 30 seconds before impact.

“It was unreal,” Mills said.

Eyewitness Leila Kawaihalau said though the spinning made the helicopter’s direction erratic, it enabled the helicopter to descend laterally, which in turn slowed down its landing.

Other witnesses said they heard a “grinding” sound from the sky, and a “ka-pop,” before the onset of the tailspin.

Amidst an attempted crash landing, the helicopter struck tree tops with its main rotor blade, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

FAA inspectors arrived on the scene yesterday and an inspector from the National Transportation Safety Board was en route, he added.

The NTSB will lead the investigation in both crashes, the findings of which have no timeline.

Relatives of those who died earlier this week in a Heli-USA crash are still on-island to make arrangements for bringing home their loved-ones’ remains.

The helicopter from Thursday’s crash, an A-Star, was loaded onto a flatbed truck yesterday. An investigation into the cause of that crash will be continuing at an undisclosed location.

• Amanda C. Gregg, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or agregg@kauaipubco.com.

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