Updated at 1:28 p.m.
Victims identified from Kaua'i copter crash
By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau
LIHU'E, Kaua'i Police have identified four of the five victims of Wednesdays tour helicopter crash at a cliff near Wai'ale'ale.
The pilot was previous identified as Mark Lundgren, 44, of Puhi. He is a retired Navy pilot, and leaves a wife and three adult children.
Police identified three passengers as Jeffrey S. Peterson, 33, and Monica D. Peterson, 33, both of Colorado, and Teresa M. Wadiak, 53, of Virginia. Investigators had not confirmed the identity of the fourth passenger.
A fire department rescue crew today recovered the last of five victims from the crash site.
Heavy clouds obscuring the Air-1 helicopter pilot's visibility have hampered the recovery effort, and repeatedly trapped firefighters at the cliffside wreck site. Three bodies were removed from the site yesterday morning, and one more late yesterday afternoon.
The fire crews returned to the scene shortly after dawn this morning to take advantage of light winds and clear weather. The region was shrouded in clouds again shortly after the crew strapped the last victim into a litter to be pulled off the cliffside.
The crash of the Jack Harter Helicopters Bell 206B Jet Ranger made national news, and people from across the country with vacationing friends and family members have been calling news and government agencies for three days, trying to confirm the the names of the dead.
The helicopter tour left the Lihu'e Airport helipad about 8 a.m. Wednesday for a one-hour tour of the island. Dozens of helicopters conduct tours each day, most of them heading clockwise around the island, visiting Waimea Canyon, the Na Pali Coast, the waterfall-fringed Wai'ale'ale crater and Wailua Falls.
Federal Aviation Administration investigator Gino Rezzonico said the last radio transmission from Lundgren shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday gave no sense that anything was wrong. The pilot reported he was leaving the north wall of the Wai'ale'ale crater, which would have been near the end of the tour.
Rezzonico said the transmission was picked up by another helicopter firm. No other reports came from the helicopter. The radio traffic was not recorded, he said.
The helicopter was reported overdue at 9:30 a.m. and choppers from Jack Harter Helicopters and other firms launched a search. The wreckage was located about noon. Recovery efforts began immediately, but were hampered by the weather at 4,500 feet elevation on the side of the cliff.
"It's right up in the cloud line. The clouds tend to stack up against the mountain. The weather is very volatile," Kaden said.
He said the helicopter wreckage appeared confined to a fairly small area, and that the bodies were within or near what was left of the aircraft. One passenger, a woman, was still conscious when the first firefighters arrived at the scene via ropes strung from a hovering helicopter Wednesday afternoon, but clouds prevented a rescue and she died around 3 p.m., six hours after the presumed time of the crash.
Neither Rezzonico nor National Transportation Safety Board investigator Wayne Pollack, who arrived yesterday to take over the investigation, had been to the crash site. Rezzonico said he hoped they would be able to fly by it today, but would not insist on it if the weather is questionable. "We will not put anybody else in danger," he said.