Flotation devices ruled out as cause of helicopter crash

LIHU‘E — Investigators have determined the flotation devices on the Heli-USA Airways helicopter that crashed last week, killing four people, were deployed after the aircraft hit the ground and likely didn’t cause the accident.

The helicopter appeared to have taken a sudden, nose-down descent into the Princeville Airport after its pilot reported trouble with the aircraft’s hydraulics, said Brian Rayner, an investigator for National Transportation Safety Board.

Rayner said parts of the hydraulic system were sent to a lab for testing.

The pilot had planned to perform a run-on landing by bringing the A-Star near the ground in a forward speed and sliding on its skids, he said.

But a witness told investigators that the aircraft tipped forward and crashed on its nose.

A preliminary report on Thursday’s crash should be completed as soon as next week, he said.

Three passengers and the pilot died and three passengers were taken to The Queen’s Medical Center.

The passengers killed were John O’Donnell of East Rockaway, N.Y.; Teri McCarty of Cabot, Ark., and Margriet Scholtz, of Santa Maria, Calif.

The hospital said survivors Cornelius Scholtz is in serious condition, but withheld the conditions of Veronica O’Donnell and James McCarty.

A separate investigative team has begun probing the cause of Sunday’s crash when an Inter-Island helicopter crashed at a YMCA camp on the island’s North Shore.

Divers recovered the tail rotor and attached parts Monday, Rayner said. Witnesses say the parts fell off into the ocean after they heard a loud bang.

“Engine noise increased significantly one said it was like a car with a very bad muffler, loud,” Rayner said.

Inter-Island has suggested a bird might have hit the Hughes 500, but Rayner said he found no evidence of a bird strike.

The swirling helicopter hit tree limbs and went through a fence as it landed in an open field near the beach.

One passenger was killed and three were injured. The pilot suffered minor injuries and was treated and released from Wilcox Hospital.

Michael Gershon, 60, of Walnut Creek, Calif., died in the crash.

The three other passengers including Dania Hansen, 60, of Los Altos, Calif., who is in serious condition at Wilcox Hospital. Douglas Barton, 60, who is in fair condition, and Judy Barton, 51, who is in serious condition, both of Newport, N.H., were flown to The Queen’s Medical Center for treatment.


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