Tuesday | January 17, 2017
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Helicopter crashes in Hilo

A Paradise Helicopters tour with five people aboard made a crash landing Thursday in a field not much more than 700 feet from a runway at Hilo International Airport.

Preliminary reports were that no one was injured in the crash, said Caroline Sluyter, spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

“The cause is under investigation at this time,” she said Thursday afternoon.

Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the Federal Aviation Administration Pacific Region, said via email Thursday evening that the FAA will investigate the crash.

The helicopter pilot declared an emergency on approach to the Hilo airport due to engine failure, he said, and “auto rotated into a field near the airport and came to rest on its side.”

The site of the crash was a small, grassy field mauka of Airport Road and Runway No. 321 of the airport, directly in front of the County Department of Water Supply’s Hilo Baseyard.

The passengers appeared to have been able to escape the vehicle without injury before rescue workers arrived. Hawaii County Fire Department crash team members wearing silver fire proximity suits surrounded the empty helicopter within minutes of the call being issued, although there appeared to be no smoke or fire at the scene.

Meanwhile, state Department of Transportation employees formed a circular barricade out of orange cones and yellow emergency line tape.

The white helicopter lay on its right side, its rotor blades twisted and bent — a sign that they may have still been rotating as they made contact with the ground.

Paradise Helicopters employees stood in a cluster inside the barricade, watching as police and fire responders went about their work securing the scene. A spokesman for Paradise Helicopters, who only gave his name as Carlos, said he couldn’t answer any questions about the crash.

“There’s an investigation going on right now, and we can’t comment on anything until that has been completed,” he said as he walked outside the barricade line.

Email Colin M. Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.