County copter’s pilot arrested for possesion

LIHU‘E — A pilot contracted to fly  the county’s helicopter for rescue and training missions has been arrested for illegal possession of prescription drugs.

Kurt Patrick Ventura, 36, of Kilauea, was arrested the evening of March 12 for two counts of first-degree promotion of harmful drugs, second-degree promotion of a harmful drug and three counts of illegal use of drug paraphernalia. According to county sources Wednesday, the drugs amounted to illegal possession of prescription medications.

Ventura was a pilot for Airborne Aviation at the time of the arrest. In February 2011, Kaua‘i County contracted Airborne to fly and maintain its MD530F helicopter.

The county helicopter is designated as a rescue and training aircraft. A county spokesperson said Ventura’s arrest did not involve operation of the helicopter.

The case remains under investigation. Ventura has since posted bail. His case is pending arraignment in 5th Circuit Court.

Upon learning of the arrest, Kaua‘i Fire Chief Robert Westerman gave immediate verbal notice to Jim Hobbs, owner of Airborne Aviation, prohibiting Ventura from operating the county’s helicopter pending the outcome of the police investigation.

“It is our understanding that Mr. Hobbs has and continues to honor that request, and that Mr. Ventura has not operated the county helicopter since his arrest on March 12,” said Sarah Blain, county spokeswoman.

At a March 27 meeting, Westerman, along with deputy chief John Blalock and deputy county attorney Mauna Kea Trask, met with Hobbs to outline details regarding preserving the contract.

In a statement regarding the issue, Westerman said public safety is the top priority. The KFD named the helicopter “Kalele Pono” (to fly safely).

After learning of the arrest, Westerman said the immediate action was to preserve public safety. He said that includes the safety of fire and police personnel who fly in the line of duty.

“We remain confident in Airborne Aviation’s ability to carry out their contract responsibly, and we appreciate Mr. Hobbs’ quick action in helping us to ensure public safety,” Westerman said.

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or


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