Officials Find Remains of 6 of 7 Passengers in Missing Tour Helicopter That Crashed in Hawaii

Coast Guard crews are searching by air and in the water for an overdue helicopter with seven people onboard that failed to return from a tour off Kauai's Na Pali coast on Dec. 26, 2019. (Credit: Hawaii DLNR)

The remains of six people on board a tour helicopter that crashed Thursday on the Hawaiian island of Kauai have been found, officials said Friday afternoon.

Kauai Fire Department Battalion Chief Solomon Kanoho said it appears there were no survivors and the search for the seventh person on board has been suspended due to fog. It will resume tomorrow, he said.

The identities of the victims have not been released as authorities are still notifying relatives.

The debris was found in a remote area of a state park on the island’s northwest side, police said in a news release.

Kanoho said the passengers were from two families and one family was a group of four. Two of the passengers were children, officials have said.

The crash occurred along the usual route that the tour helicopters fly, Kanoho said. The helicopter went down about 13 miles north of the city of Hanapepe, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Multiple agencies, including the US Coast Guard, the US Navy and the Kauai Fire Department, were involved in searching for the helicopter. Other private helicopter companies aided in the search.

The last communication from the pilot came around 4:40 p.m. local time, about 40 minutes before the helicopter was due to return, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir told CNN on Friday. At that time, the aircraft was leaving Waimeia Canyon, Muir said.

Safari Helicopters has confirmed its helicopter was missing but declined to provide additional details.

The aircraft was equipped with an electronic locator, but officials did not receive a signal from it, Muir said.

The FAA said the helicopter was a Eurocopter AS350 B2. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.

The Coast Guard said it was notified of the missing helicopter just after 6 p.m. and launched a MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter crew, a cutter and other resources.

Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Cox, of Coast Guard Joint Rescue Command Center Honolulu, previously said weather conditions in the search area were “challenging,” with low visibility and blustery winds, according to CNN affiliate KHNL/KGMB.

“There was a cold front that came through the area around that time, bringing scattered showers and an increase of wind gusts,” CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.

Several tour companies conduct helicopter tours every day on Kauai, depending on the weather, the Coast Guard said. Nearly 80% of the island — sometimes called the “Garden Island” — is uninhabited. Some parts are only accessible by sea or air, according to Hawaii’s travel website.

Earlier this year, three people were killed on the island of Oahu when their tour helicopter crashed in a residential neighborhood.

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