A Blue Hawaiian Helicopter carrying a honeymooning couple from Pennsylvania and two Canadian travelers on a scenic tour crashed into a ridge and exploded on the island of Molokai Thursday afternoon, killing all five people aboard, including the pilot.
The helicopter, a Eurocopter EC-130 piloted by Nathan Cline, 30, was taking the passengers on a one-hour aerial tour of West Maui and Moloka’i when it suddenly lost altitude and crashed into a ridge behind Kilohana elementary school. Witnesses reported a storm front moving across the island appeared to have caught the helicopter. Some witnesses reported the helicopter had been making an unusual sound before it went down about 12:15 p.m.
The crash claimed the lives of Michael and Nicole Abel of Murrysille, Penn., who had been married just six days when the crash occurred. Both were young nuclear engineers employed by Westinghouse Electric Co. in Cranberry, Pennsylvania, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh. Two tourists from Ontario, Canada, were also killed in the crash. The Canadian consulate in San Francisco was providing consular assistance, but the identities of the Canadian nationals have not yet been released.
Mr. Cline was highly esteemed by coworkers and former passengers alike as a personable man with a great sense of humor and an intense love of his job.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators arrived in Hawaii within hours to launch an immediate probe of the crash. A preliminary report is expected within two weeks, but NTSB officials said it could be months before they are able to determine the cause of the crash.
Blue Hawaiian Helicopter offices were closed on Friday while company officers assessed the situation and reviewed procedures. The helicopter company operates about 160,000 tours each year on all of the Hawaiian islands.
Another Blue Hawaiian aircraft crashed into a Maui mountainside in July 2000, killing all six passengers aboard and the pilot. In that incident, the NTSB found the pilot had been flying too low over the terrain amid low-lying clouds, which caused the twin engine AS-355 to crash into a mountain ridge deep in Maui’s Iao Valley.
Helicopter wreckage recovered, sent to Maui
Honeymoon horror: Newlyweds among five killed in fiery helicopter crash on scenic Hawaiian island
Two Canadian tourists among five killed in Hawaii helicopter crash