On June 8, 2022, a tour helicopter crashed in a lava field on the Big Island of Hawaii. Six people sustained injuries, including two victims who were hospitalized in serious condition.
Authorities say the Bell 407 tour helicopter operated by Paradise Helicopters departed from Kona International Airport at around 5:00 p.m. local time. The sightseeing helicopter crashed about 30 minutes later near South Point, the southernmost part of the Big Island. Emergency responders could not access the tour helicopter crash site by ground vehicle, so emergency helicopters were dispatched to evacuate the injured victims.
News agencies reported that the pilot, a man in his 50s, was extracted from Bell helicopter wreckage after being trapped for some time. He was taken to a hospital in serious but stable conditions. One of his passengers, an 18-year-old woman, was airlifted to Kona Community Hospital in serious condition. The other four victims were reported as ambulatory.
Victims of Big Island Tour Helicopter Crash
KITV Hawaii identified three of the victims as 48-year-old Clay Watson of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and his two daughters, Kennedy and Clayton. Watson, the owner of Mountain View Auto Group, brought his daughters on a Hawaiian vacation to celebrate their recent graduation from high school. A friend of the family confirmed on social media that one of the Watson daughters was in serious condition after the crash.
The other victims, who have not yet been identified, included a 54-year-old man, a 23-year-old man, and a woman in her late teens.
Paradise Helicopters Crash on Big Island
Authorities say K&S Helicopters (DBA Paradise Helicopters) was the tour operator taking the Watson family and others on an aerial tour of the Big Island. Founded in 1997, Paradise Helicopters is locally owned with headquarters in Kailua Kona. The company was recently named in litigation stemming from an incident in which one of its tour helicopters ran out of fuel and crashed.
According to KITV, Paradise Helicopters has been involved in several accidents. In a statement, Paradise Helicopters said it is cooperating with investigating agencies.
What Caused the Hawaii Tour Helicopter Crash?
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are leading the inquiry into the cause of the Big Island helicopter crash. Helicopter crash investigations usually take between 12 and 36 months to complete.
Baum Hedlund Vice President Ronald L. M. Goldman is a board-certified trial lawyer with more than 50 years of experience. Over the course of his career, Goldman has litigated numerous lawsuits stemming from helicopter crashes, including cases involving Bell Helicopters.
According to Goldman, the crash investigation will focus on the wreckage itself for any signs of mechanical failure, maintenance records of the Bell helicopter, the actions of the pilot, and weather conditions, among other things.
“In our experience litigating these types of cases, there is no question that the helicopter tour industry in Hawaii needs more stringent safety regulations to help protect passengers and stop preventable crashes from happening,” says Goldman. He adds that while a lot of questions will need to be answered in this most recent crash on the Big Island of Hawaii, “we have seen an uptick in crashes involving tour operator negligence and/or mechanical failure, so there is a need for change and accountability in the tour industry.”
Bell 407 Helicopter Crashes
According to government data, Bell 407 helicopters have been involved in 187 total accidents and incidents, including 61 that resulted in fatalities. More than 100 people have died in Bell 407 helicopter crashes.
The helicopter crash attorneys at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman have litigated multiple cases involving Bell helicopters, including the 407 model. We successfully resolved a lawsuit stemming from a 2015 crash of a Bell 407 helicopter in California that killed four people.
Baum Hedlund Has Decades of Experience Handling Hawaii Aviation Accident Cases
Our firm has handled several major cases stemming from Hawaii plane and helicopter crashes.
Some of our most notable Hawaii aviation accident cases include:
Aerospatiele Helicopter Crash, Kauai (2005): Baum Hedlund helicopter crash lawyers successfully handled a case stemming from a helicopter tour crash that happened on September 23, 2005. An Aerospatiale AS-350BA registered to Jan Leasing, LLC, of Las Vegas and operated by Heli USA Airways crashed into the ocean several hundred yards off the coastline at Kauai’s Ke’e Beach. The pilot indicated that he saw another helicopter below him and took sudden, uncalled-for maneuvering actions, which caused the helicopter drop, hit the water, then go up into the air again before falling back down into the ocean. Three passengers died in the crash. The commercial pilot and two other passengers sustained injuries.
Bell 206B Helicopter Crash, Kauai (2003): Baum Hedlund attorneys successfully handled a case stemming from a Bell 206B tour helicopter crash. The chopper was nearing the Waialeale Crater on Kauai when the pilot failed to maintain adequate terrain clearance during a descent over mountainous terrain. The crash happened amid adverse weather conditions.
Aerospatiele Helicopter Crash, Maui (1992): Our firm successfully resolved litigation stemming from an incident involving a sightseeing helicopter operated by Hawaii Helicopters, Inc. The tour helicopter took off and flew into adverse weather conditions on Maui. The pilot and seven passengers died when the helicopter collided with mountainous terrain near the town of Hana.
Beech H18 Air Taxi Crash (1989): Our attorneys litigated a case stemming from a Beech H18 air taxi crash that killed 11 people. The air taxi was supposed to take passengers from Hilo to Kahului, Hawaii. But the Scenic Air Tours plane crashed into a canyon area near a waterfall in Waipio Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii.
If you or someone in your family has been involved in a tour helicopter crash, the aviation accident attorneys at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman can help you. Since 1973, our firm has won more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements for clients across a broad range of practice areas. We know what it takes to win high-stakes cases, no matter the opponent.
For a free and confidential case evaluation, please contact us or call at (855) 948-5098 today.