Pilot Dies, Four Passengers Survive Helicopter Crash Off Waikiki
HONOLULU (AP) _ A tour helicopter exploded and crashed off Waikiki Beach, fatally injuring its pilot, but four injured passengers were rescued by surfers, canoists and beachgoers, authorities said.
″The surfers came in, the outrigger (canoe) people went in. Everyone went in to help them, said Graham Taylor, who was on the beach Sunday afternoon when the Royal Helicopters Inc. chopper went down about 150 yards offshore shortly after takeoff from a beachfront helipad.
″It was scary. It was real scary,″ said one rescuer, Clyde Aikau. ″Everybody was screaming, and people were inside the helicopter trapped. And we had to go up there and open up the doors and pull them out.″
The pilot and his four passengers, who are from the Chicago area, were were conscious when pulled from the wreckage, said Alan K. Sparks, who helped put the first victim onto a surfboard for a quick ride to shore.
The pilot, Ronald Thrash, 44, president of the helicopter company, died of chest injuries about two hours later at Queen’s Medical Center, said hospital spokeswoman Sharlene Bliss.
One passenger was treated and discharged, but the three others remained hospitalized today, one in fair condition, two in guarded condition, officials said.
Witnesses said the explosion occurred while the helicopter was 50 to 100 feet over the water. They said there was no fire, but the blast threw the tail of copter about 25 yards from the body of the helicopter.
The Huey 500D helicopter Thrash flew was similar to the one used on the television program ″Magnum, P.I.,″ said acting Fire Capt. Charles Tom.
The findings of federal investigators on the cause of the crash would determine whether police also investigate the accident, a police spokesman said.