The Safari Helicopter’s aircraft plunged into the sea off the island of Kauai, which was featured in the film Jurassic Park, on 26 December during bad weather, killing all seven people onboard. Those who lost their lives included the pilot, Paul Matero, aged 69, who had 12 years’ experience flying around the island, a 46-year-old mother and her 14-year-old daughter from Wisconsin in the US, and four people believed to be a Swiss family. One of the seven bodies is yet to be retrieved and formal identification of the Swiss family is ongoing.
US Rep. Ed Case of Hawaii made a statement following the crash, in which he cited several local fatal accidents in recent years. He blamed the Federal Aviation Administration for not taking National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) safety improvement efforts seriously, and the industry for not regulating itself. “Tour helicopter and small aircraft operations are not safe, and innocent lives are paying the price,” he stated, saying that the local industry had ‘dramatically increased’ the volume of flights operating in recent years, ‘at all times of day and night, in seemingly all weather’.
The NTSB lists nine helicopter crashes in Hawaii over the last 10 years, including three with fatalities.
Ladd Sanger, a US-based aviation attorney and helicopter pilot, who has handled several helicopter crash cases in Hawaii, said tour operators on Kauai face unique challenges due to local microclimates and topography, so ‘the weather at the airport is going to be different than up at the crash location’. “Those microclimates can come on very quickly and dissipate quickly too, so the weather reporting is difficult,” he said.