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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 5, 2010

Lumber falls from helicopter onto Kauai home

Advertiser Staff

A Kauai couple was shaken but otherwise uninjured this morning when several large pieces of lumber fell out of a strapped-together bundle while a helicopter was transporting the building materials to a botanical garden next to their home in Haena.

One of the lumber pieces crashed through the roof of the open-air lanai attached to the back of their home.
“It was a little after 8 (a.m.) when I heard a loud bang — I thought the helicopter had crashed,” Nancy Soppeland said.
She was in a bedroom next to the lanai when the lumber crashed through the roof of the open-air lanai attached to the back of the cottage where she lives with her husband, Mark.
Soppeland said the helicopter had been ferrying the lumber into to the adjacent Limahuli National Tropical Botanical Garden.
She described the lumber as being about four inches square and about four feet long. In addition to the piece that crashed through the lanai roof, several other pieces wound up in the backyard and possibly in the surrounding “jungle.”
“It was pretty terrifying, but fortunately no one was hurt,” Soppeland said.
She said the couple’s dog “Winter” took of down the beach after the crash and that it took her about two hours to coax the dog close enough to her to put a collar on.
Mark Soppeland said he had just come into the cottage through the lanai and back door “about 15 seconds before” the incident.
“I was a little bit shaken, but certainly not traumatized by it,” Mark Soppeland said.
A landscaping contractor who sometimes works on projects in the Botanical Garden, Soppeland said it is not uncommon for helicopters to ferry materials into the more remote areas of the garden.
“I knew they would be flying today even though it was really really blustery,” Soppeland said. “They usually try to avoid flying over our house by going to the east or the west of it.”
He said garden employees came to the cottage very quickly after the accident.
“They were kind of shaken by it, too, and I told them, ‘Look, accidents happen, it’s unfortunate, but they do, but we’re all O.K.,’” Soppeland said.
He said the falling lumber damaged several sheets of clear, corrugated roofing panels and some of the lanai’s wooden frame.
“The garden employees came to our house right away. They were very attentive and worried about our welfare and our comfort,” Soppeland said.
David Burney, director of conservation for the non-profit National Tropical Botanical Gardens organization, which operates four gardens on Kauai and one in Florida, said the helicopter pilot was carrying a load of plywood and the wood posts needed to build a composting toilet when gusty winds caused the cargo bundle to begin spinning.
The pilot decided to gain some altitude and was hoping to duck behind a mountain to get into calmer air to stop the cargo from spinning when centrifugal force caused some of the bundled 4-by-4s to come loose and fall to the ground.
He said the pilot wasn’t over the house when the lumber came loose but the force that dislodged the wood and the gusty winds caused it to drift toward the cottage.
He estimated the damages to the cottage at “a couple of hundred of dollars” and said garden employees were “already on their way to Home Depot” to buy the materials to repair the damaged lanai.
“We’re just very thankful that no one was injured,” Burney said.