A fiery tour helicopter crash on Molokai in Hawaii today killed five, but officials are not yet sure what caused the collision.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the deadly accident, as officials work to identify the dead and notify their next of kin. At least two of the victims aboard the helicopter are said to have been newlyweds. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, a company that arranges tours of all major Hawaiian islands, owned the ill-fated copter and back in 2000, another Blue Hawaiian Helicopters chopper crashed on a similar tour, killing seven. A spokeswoman for the company says they are “puzzled” at to what may have caused the accident.
Maui police indicate that the crash occurred during a one hour tour of West Maui and Molokai, and that the copter crashed into a mountain ridge in East Molokai. The collision occurred just above Kilohana Elementary School, and principal Richard Stevens commented on the incident:
“We did hear what a lot of us thought was thunder. Our health aide however was actually watching while all of this happened. She came down and said, ‘Richard you got to know this, you got to know this – a helicopter just crashed into the mountain and you can see the smoke.”
One ID has been made public thusfar, that of 30-year-old pilot Nathan Cline of Kihei. Officials say that four bodies were found in the copter, and one was located underneath the wreckage. Maui County Spokesperson Rod Antone commented:
“We just want to say that our hearts go out to the families of the passengers and of the pilot.”