Feds won’t investigate crash from ground due to steep terrain

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) – The National Transportation Safety Board said the terrain where the Safari tour helicopter crashed on Thursday, Dec. 26, is extremely challenging, and it would take investigators several hours one-way just to cut through brush to make it there.

Federal investigators have been on Kauai since Sunday, they released a photo on Tuesday showing where the chopper crashed.

The NTSB said on Thursday that the terrain is too challenging to investigate from the ground so they will remove the crash scene via helicopter.

“Based with either choosing to cut a new path through the bush to the accident scene, which could take possibly six to eight hours one-way, they just felt it was safer and a better alternative to get the wreckage first then have them look at it there,” said Eric Weiss, NTSB media liaison.

Last week’s crash killed seven people including the pilot, a family of four from Switzerland, and a mother and daughter from Wisconsin.

The NTSB said it has enough drone footage and photos from local and federal partners to continue investigating from a secure location.

“We have a pretty good sense of what’s up there,” Weiss said. “Our investigator felt that it was better to be safe and safer to have the wreckage taken down.”

Weiss said the terrain is one of the more difficult crash scenes they’ve seen.

“We have lots of challenging terrain, especially in Alaska, but this is very, very challenging I mean it would be very difficult to exaggerate the difficulty of the terrain and getting to the site.”

The NTSB said the Safari helicopter was 26 minutes into their tour when it hit a ridge at 2,900 feet before falling 100 feet and bursting into flames.

The wreckage will be moved to a secure location somewhere in Hawaii.

“We secure it from the elements in a safe place so in case investigators have to go back to the wreckage to look for a particular component or track down a particular lead, they can do that if the wreckage is preserved in a safe location,” Weiss said.

So far the NTSB had said that at approximately 4:57 p.m. local time, an Airbus AS350 B2 helicopter, registration number N985SA, collided with terrain about 24 miles northwest of Lihue, Hawaii.

A post-crash fire consumed much of the aircraft. The helicopter’s commercial pilot and six passengers were killed.

The flight departed Lihue Airport at 4:31 p.m. local time.

The NTSB dispatched a team of four, led by Investigator-In-Charge Brice Banning that includes experts in airworthiness, operations, and family assistance. They arrived on Kauai, Hawaii, Sunday evening. Other investigators, including a meteorologist, are working from NTSB headquarters in Washington.

On Monday, December 30, 2019, Banning flew over the crash site to evaluate the accident site conditions and photo document the wreckage path. In the coming days, the wreckage will be moved to a secure location where investigators will conduct a more thorough examination of the recovered evidence.

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