The tour helicopter that went down in Kaneohe Bay Monday afternoon has been pulled from the water, though what exactly happened remains under investigation.
The chopper went down near the sandbar around 5:15 p.m. with a pilot and two passengers on board.
The helicopter is owned by Novictor Oahu Helicopters, and went down on the ocean side of the Ahu O Laka sandbar, a popular location for tourist boat tours. A company representative said the pilot suffered an apparent medical condition during the flight.
The wreckage of the Robinson R44 helicopter was airlifted out of waist-deep water in Kaneohe Bay just before noon Tuesday.
Two Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) officers assisted a rigger from Pacific Helicopters in getting straps and ropes around the chopper, which had turned on one side during or after the accident.
With four DOCARE officers creating a safety zone around the downed aircraft, a Bell UH-1 (Huey) helicopter based on Maui, lifted the wreckage out of the water and less than 10 minutes later ferried it to Heeia-Kea Small Boat Harbor, where DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) staff cordoned off a large section of the parking lot for the recovery operation.
When the salvage team reached the wreckage Tuesday morning, half of it was above the water with one skid and the tail rotor sticking out of the ocean. A large part of the engine cowling and a door appeared to be the only parts of the helicopter that broke apart from the fuselage.
It appears the crash did not damage coral reefs, nor did officers detect any fuel leakage into the water, though they smelled fuel when near the chopper.
After the craft was lowered onto the parking lot, any remaining fuel was drained and the Honolulu Fire Dept. sent personnel to contain any that leaked onto the lot.
Immediately following the crash, officials say a group of people who were boating and kayaking in the area sprang into action to pull the trio out of the wreckage.
The Good Samaritans worked together to help the victims before first responders arrived on scene.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, says it still needs to interview the pilot.