A tour helicopter crashed at an airport on the island of Kauai on Thursday, killing four people and critically injuring three, officials said.
The crash occurred at Princeville Airport mid-afternoon, shortly after a Heli-USA Airways helicopter pilot radioed that he was having hydraulic problems, according to a statement from Kauai Fire Chief Robert Westerman.
Nigel Turner, CEO of Las Vegas-based Heli-USA, said the aircraft was at the end of its tour and minutes from its scheduled landing when it crashed.
"We are in the process of notifying the families of those individuals involved and our sincere condolences goes out at this time," he said. "We are working with authorities to find out exactly what happened."
Of the two men and two women who died, three were killed in the crash and one died while being taken to a hospital, Maui County spokeswoman Mary Daubert said.
The crash comes one month after the Federal Aviation Administration announced new safety standards for air tour companies that operate at many vacation spots nationwide and for pilots who offer rides at air shows. The safety rule does not take effect until August.
Review NTSB findings on 2005 and 2004 helicopter crashes in Hawaii as reported earlier on AirportBusiness.com:
The FAA promised to closely monitor deaths and other accidents involving air tours after looking into 107 accidents that killed 98 people from 1988 to 1995.
Five people were killed in 2004 when a helicopter operated by Bali Hai Helicopter Tours Inc. crashed into a mountain on Kauai. And three passengers drowned in 2005 after a Heli-USA helicopter plunged into the Pacific Ocean off Kauai.
Turner defended the safety of his helicopters. The company has a fleet of six in Hawaii, and also flies in Nevada.
"The company has flown over a million passengers. This is our second accident in a million people," he said, adding that he would not hesitate to put his own family in his helicopters.
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The three passengers killed when their tour helicopter crashed on Kauai and the three survivors were from Arkansas, California and New York.
"When you have a hydraulic failure, you're perfectly able to get to the ground," Danko said. "If you have the floats out, you're no longer able to skid."
In the last 10 years, there have been 20 helicopter sightseeing tour accidents in Hawaii, 10 in Arizona, eight in Alaska and one in New York.