VOLCANO, Hawaii (AP) - A sightseeing helicopter flying over an
active lava flow from Kilauea Volcano crashed into rugged terrain,
killing the pilot and all three passengers.
The pilot of the Hughes 500 reported engine problems before the
helicopter fell straight down Sunday and "pancaked" into an old
lava flow, said Tweet Coleman, the Federal Aviation
Administration's Pacific representative.
Lava got as close as 50 feet from the crash site before crews
were able to remove all the debris, said Jim Gale, a ranger at
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The helicopter owned by Tropical Helicopters was on a tour of
the Kilauea eruption when it crashed about two miles from Chain of
Craters Road, at the 600-foot level on a cliff known as Pulama
Pali, Gale said. It wasn't immediately known how close the crash
site was to active lava flows.
The bodies of the victims were recovered Sunday as park rescue
personnel conducted an investigation at the crash scene, Gale said.
Their names were being withheld pending notification of family
members. Coleman said all three passengers were tourists from York,
Park dispatch had received a "mayday" distress call from the
pilot before losing radio contact, Gale said.
A park firefighting helicopter working in the area confirmed the
crash a short time later, and dropped buckets of water on the crash
site fire, he said.
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