Pulama Pali, Hilo, HI Tour Helicopter Crash, June 2003
TOUR HELICOPTER WRECKAGE PULLED FROM PATH OF LAVA.
Hilo, Hawaii -- Flowing lava threatened to overrun the site of a tour helicopter crash that killed four people Sunday, forcing investigators to airlift the wreckage out of a lava field yesterday.
A Los Angeles investigator from the NTSB and two from the FAA converged on the site to begin the inquiry into the crash that killed the pilot and all three passengers.
Federal officials identified the victims as:
Pilot RUSSELL HOLLIDAY.
Her 13-year-old daughter, NICOLE LAUGHMAN.
Jody's husband, JAMES THOMAS.
The passengers were from Lake Meade in Adams County in South Central Pennsylvania.
The Tropical Helicopters Hughes 500 from Hilo slammed into the ground Sunday morning and was engulfed in flames on a cliff known as Pulama Pali about two miles from Chain of Craters Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Calvin Dorn, president of K & S Helicopters, said HOLLIDAY had a wife and two young children who were preparing to move to join him in East Hawaii before the crash. Tropical Helicopters is registered to do business in Hawaii as K & S Helicopters, Inc.
HOLLIDAY, a big man who was known by the nickname "Hoss," was a "highly experienced professional" who had completed two outside professional training programs in the past two months, Dorn said.
"He was one of the most professional pilots that I have ever trained," Dorn said. "He was a very, very friendly, loving, happy guy. Very professional. He took his flying seriously, and he was incredibly talented."
Paul Schlamm, an NTSB spokesman, said there are no known witnesses to the crash.
HOLLIDAY radioed a mayday call at 9:48 a.m. Sunday, reporting engine failure 31 minutes into the 50-minute aerial tour of the volcano.
Schlamm said there was "post-impact fire." Parks officials said a helicopter fighting a brush fire at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park flew over the crash site shortly after impact and dumped water on the flames.
The wreckage was at an elevation of about 620 feet, about two miles from the end of Chain of Craters Road near the Kalapana Trail, park ranger Jim Gale said.
Three loads of helicopter wreckage were airlifted from the crash site and taken to Hilo yesterday to prevent them from being engulfed by oncoming lava, Gale said. The lava advanced to within 50 feet of the site as the last of the debris was removed, Gale said.
The bodies were removed from the wreckage Sunday and taken to Hilo Medical Center, where autopsies were to be conducted today.
Honolulu Advertiser Hawaii 2003-06-17