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Preliminary reports of the Hawaii Tour helicopter crash showed that the helicopter experienced “violent discomfort” before descending uncontrollably and crashing into a remote lava field.

The crash on the island of Kale, near Hawaii on June 8, occurred during a federally regulated “on-demand air tour flight” and seriously injured the pilot and two passengers, while three other passengers suffered minor injuries, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

In the NTSB’s preliminary report on the plane crash, a representative of the Paradise Helicopter operator told investigators how the helicopter – Bell 407 helicopter, N402SH – Alison Onizuka departed from the company base at Kona International Airport at 5:01 pm local time. (PHKO), Kona, Hawaii, and went south for an air tour flight around the island.

The helicopter traveled southeast at an altitude of about 500-600 feet above the ground and at an airspeed of 122 and 127 knots, according to the automatic surveillance-transmission and the company’s flight track data.

Air tour helicopter crashes into Lava Field with 6 onboard

The pilot said the first part of the flight was normal.

According to the NTSB, about 30 minutes into the flight, the helicopter “experienced violent discomfort, followed by an uncontrolled spin (yawning) to the right.”

This NTSB image shows the main debris in the lava-covered terrain.

This NTSB image shows the main debris in the lava-covered terrain.
(National Transportation Safety Board)

A passenger sitting in the back said that while the helicopter was spinning, she saw something fall from the helicopter; However, she could not identify the specific part.

According to the NTSB, flight track data showed that at the end of the flight track, consistent with the passenger’s statement, the speed of landing and the decrease in airspeed.

Read the preliminary report:

The helicopter hovered uncontrollably as it descended and then crashed into a rough, uneven, lava-covered terrain and landed on the left.

After the accident, a passenger made an emergency call to report the accident.

When the helicopter crashed to the ground, it shattered into hundreds of feet.

“Investigations on the NTSB of the crash site revealed that the tail boom came about 762 feet northeast from the main pile, which contained the fuselage, engine and main rotor system,” the report said. “Tail boom separated tail fuse from fuselage at attachment point.”

This NTSB image shows the tail boom at the scene of the accident.

This NTSB image shows the tail boom at the scene of the accident.
(National Transportation Safety Board)

“The upper left attachment fitting fastener was not present, and the lower left attachment fitting was fractured and exhibited a fatigue signature,” the report continues. “Fasteners were present for fitting the lower left, lower right and upper right attachments.”

Helicopter maintenance records show that the most recent tail boom attachment fasteners torque check was completed on May 4, 2022 with a total of 22,891.4 flight hours of airframe time.

At the time of the crash, the helicopter had accumulated 23,005.6 flight hours – 114.2 flight hours since the torque was checked – and no additional maintenance had been carried out at that attached location.

The tail boom was installed on a total of 5,780.0 hours of airframe time on August 23, 2009 and was not removed prior to the crash, NTSB says.

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NTSB’s Materials Laboratory reserved parts of the tail boom structure, AFT fuselage structure, attachment fittings and fasteners for further investigation.

An investigator from the Alaska regional office of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an NTSB airworthiness investigator, an NTSB survival factor investigator, and an NTSB maintenance investigator in Washington, DC, responded to Hawaii Island.