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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 6:25 p.m., Thursday, March 8, 2007

Previous Heli USA crash killed 3 people

Advertiser Staff

A 2005 helicopter crash that left three people dead also involved Heli USA, the company that owns the aircraft that crashed this afternoon.

On Sept. 23, 2005, an Aerospatiale AS350BA helicopter operated by Heli USA Airways crashed into the ocean several hundred feet off the coast of Kailiu Point near Haena on Kaua'i.

Three of the five passengers died of drowning or drowning-related circumstances, even though none of the passengers or the pilot received any serious injuries in the crash, the NTSB concluded last month.

During the initial part of the 2005 tour, the pilot reported that the weather and visibility were good. But the helicopter encountered heavy rain and reduced visibility and the pilot decided to turn back, the NTSB said.

Instead, the helicopter descended rapidly, entered a hard spin to the left and crashed into the ocean.

There was no evidence of mechanical malfunction.

The NTSB concluded the probable cause of the accident was the pilot's decision to continue flying into adverse weather conditions. A contributing factor was inadequate Federal Aviation Administration surveillance of operating restrictions, the NTSB concluded.

A lack of helicopter flotation equipment contributed to the loss of life, the NTSB said.

To read the NTSB's factual report on the Sept. 23, 2005 crash, follow this link.

To read an NTSB safety recommendation that was linked to the 2005 crash, see this link.