HONOLULU (KHON2) — A spokesperson for Croman Corporation confirmed the four people killed in a helicopter crash on Kauai were employees of the company.

Three of the four Croman Corp. employees that died were local residents which took a toll on the tight-knit community of Waimea.

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The crash happened around 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 22, while the helicopter was conducting training operations at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) at Barking Sands.

“This has affected the community in a very big way this was a very big surprise,” said Kauai resident, Kanoee Hookano.

The four employees killed were identified on Wednesday, Feb. 23, as:

  • Daniel Maurice; 64, Chief Pilot, Check Airman and FAA Designated Pilot Examiner
  • Patrick Rader; 55, Command Pilot, Check Airman
  • Ericka Tevez-Valdez; 42, Mechanic and Aircrew
  • Mathew Haider; 44, Mechanic and Aircrew

Croman Corp. said that Maurice is from Lyle, Washington, while the other three were Kauai residents.

The family of Ericka Tevez-Valdez said she was a loving mother of two. Tevez-Valdez was in the air force and she loved her job as a mechanic.

“PMRF is a close community and we are mourning the loss of our Ohana here, 4 of our teammates were lost yesterday,” said Thomas Clements, PMRF’s public affairs officer.

Flight logs show the chopper departed barking sands at 9:24 a.m. on Tuesday. It was in the air less than an hour and traveled roughly 83 miles before it crashed.

Witnesses in the area said they saw thick, black smoke at Barking Sands shortly after the crash.

Chris Turner, the boat captain for Na Pali Riders, was conducting a tour about a quarter-mile from Barking Sands.

“Erratically the helicopter made a severe spin to the right and nose down — full blast. It had gone from where it was up there to hitting the just the other side of the sand dunes there where the runway was to a massive explosion.”

Chris Turner, the boat captain for Na Pali Riders

The U.S. Navy, Federal Aviation Administration, and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrived in Kauai on Wednesday to conduct the on-scene portion of the investigation, including the documentation and examination of the aircraft.

According to Clements, PMRF may temporarily pause operations because of the incident.

Details of the crash are still unknown.

Croman Corp. stated they have provided Commercial Air Support Service to the Navy at PMRF since 2007.

NTSB to begin investigation of Kauai helicopter crash

Members of the Hawaii Congressional delegation said they are seeking answers after the deadly crash.

Congressman Ed Case and Congressman Kai Kahele both expressed their condolences to those who lost loved ones in the helicopter crash, they said they will keep a close eye on the results of the NTSB investigation.

Case said there remains a lot of questions related to the accident.

“My number one concern right now is what happened, why, and how can we prevent it from happening again,” Case said. “We’ve had many losses and fatal accidents from helicopters — whether they be military or tour helicopters, way too many — over a very recent period of time, just the last couple of years.”

Kahele said he shared his thoughts with the base commander the morning following the accident. Croman Corp. was contracted by the military to retrieve material from open ocean testing at the PMRF.

Kahele said while speaking with the base commander, he learned the aircraft involved in the crash was the same helicopter he rode to visit constituents on Ni’ihau last year.

“It does cross your mind that it could have been you in the helicopter again you know just shocked and really sad for the families and the base,” said Kahele.

Kahele is also a military and civilian pilot and said this type of accident is rare.

“These things don’t just happen, they happen as a result of some type of mechanical failure and that’s very rare it’s not usual for something like this to happen,” Kahele said. “These aircraft, especially the Sikorsky, are solid workforce aircraft and they perform time and time again, so something like this will have to be looked at very carefully.”

Meanwhile, Case is recalling the deadly 2019 Hawaii King Air crash that killed 11 people on Oahu’s North Shore. Now with Tuesday’s helicopter crash, he urges the Federal Aviation Administration to adopt recommendations issued by the NTSB.

“The agency that is responsible for the regulations for the controls is the Federal Aviation Administration,” Case said. “And in the area of tour helicopters and small planes across our country, it has not accepted many of the NTSB recommendations following fatal crashes.”

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The crash remains under investigation by the NTSB.