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Rescuers Try To Reach Crash Site

June 26, 1998

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) _ Rescue crews tried Friday to reach the remote site where a tour helicopter crashed into a mountain, apparently killing all six people on board.

An Army paramedic was lowered to the crash site at the 2,300-foot level of Mount Waialeale on the island of Kauai, but the helicopter that lowered the man had to leave the scene because of heavy cloud cover.

Five bodies were seen at the site, Kauai County Fire Chief David Sproat said. The fate of the other occupant was not known, but authorities believe that person is dead.

It appeared the helicopter flew straight into the mountain when it crashed Thursday morning while on a 50-minute tour of the Garden Isle, Federal Aviation Administration inspector Joel Koff said.

Weather was believed to be a factor in the crash, with rain and heavy clouds in the area. Mount Waialeale is often described as America’s wettest spot with more than 440 inches of rain a year.

Heavy cloud cover and rugged terrain hampered efforts of rescue crews to reach the scene, which is inaccessible by foot.

``The terrain is extremely rugged. It’s extremely steep,″ Coast Guard pilot Matt Sisson said. ``There’s heavy undergrowth and trees. It’s next to a waterfall that’s almost a sheer drop.″

The wreckage was discovered Thursday afternoon, five hours after the helicopter left Lihue Airport.

It was the first fatal helicopter crash in Hawaii this year. Last year, three crashes killed four people.

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