Officials have found the wreckage of a Safari Helicopters Eurocopter AS350, which went missing on Thursday, December 26, 2019, in Kauai, Hawaii. When it disappeared, the helicopter was carrying seven people — the pilot and six passengers, two of whom are believed to be minors. Passengers were on a tour of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast.
Helicopter Failed to Return from Hawaii Tour Flight
Safari Helicopters last heard from the aircraft at around 4:40 pm local time when the helicopter left Waimea Canyon. The return flight should have taken around 40 minutes.
The owner of Safari Helicopters called officials at 6:06 pm local time to alert watchstanders that the aircraft was due to return to Lihue at 5:21 pm but had not done so. Rescuers found the helicopter’s wreckage in Koke’e State Park near Nu’alolo on Friday, December 27.
The Coast Guard, Navy, and Kauai fire department are now searching for any survivors. Unfortunately, weather conditions have made search and rescue difficult. Rescuers face the wind, scattered showers, and low visibility.
“The weather conditions are challenging,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Cox, Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu. “We have trained crews responding and on scene searching for any signs of the helicopter and those aboard.”
Lawmakers Consider Tougher Hawaii Helicopter Tour Regulations
Officials are considering stricter regulations to oversee Hawaii helicopter tours in the wake of multiple recent tragedies. In April, three people died in a tour helicopter crash on Oahu, while a commercial skydiving plane crash in June killed 11 people. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) notes that safety regulations of commercial tour helicopters and small aircraft are not sufficient.
Approximately 80 percent of Kauai is uninhabited. The island is marked by rough terrain, some of which are not accessible by land.
Sightseeing helicopter tours are a major contributor to the state’s economy, bringing in around $150 million annually. Such tours, however, often put tourists’ lives at risk with improperly maintained helicopters, flights that are undertaken even in poor or unstable weather conditions, and pilots who fly too close to hazards to give their passengers a closer view. Too many tour operators put profits ahead of safety, cutting corners in the name of making money and allowing or encouraging unsafe operation of their aircraft.
Experienced Attorneys Representing Hawaiian Helicopter Crash Victims
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman has successfully represented people harmed in numerous sightseeing helicopter crashes, including tragedies in Hawaii. We are an industry leader in aviation litigation and have investigated and managed claims against some of the largest aviation companies in the world. In our decades of experience, we have represented more than 700 victims of aircraft accidents, and have obtained billions of dollars in compensation for our clients by aggressively pursuing justice on their behalf.
We are also committed to advocates for changes to aviation safety, including stricter helicopter regulations. Our firm successfully fought to change aviation law when we argued that a helicopter company that warned the military of a defect in its helicopters should also have warned civil aviators.
If you or a family member has been harmed in a Hawaii sightseeing tour helicopter crash, or any type of aviation accident, we encourage you to contact one of our experienced helicopter crash attorneys today.