NTSB Identification: WPR16FA072
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, February 18, 2016 in Honolulu, HI
Aircraft: BELL 206B, registration: N80918
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 3 Serious, 1 Minor.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On February 18, 2016, about 1020 Hawaiian standard time, a Bell 206B, N80918, was substantially damaged when it impacted water during an emergency landing near Honolulu, Hawaii. The helicopter was registered to a private individual and operated by Genesis Helicopters under provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a local air tour flight. The commercial pilot and 2 passengers sustained serious injuries, 1 passenger sustained minor injuries, and 1 passenger was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed for the local flight. The flight originated from the Honolulu International Airport (HLN), Honolulu, about 0935.
The pilot reported to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge, that while in cruise flight over Ford Island, he felt a vibration followed by a grinding noise. Shortly after, the pilot heard a loud bang, scanned the instrument panel and saw that the engine instruments indicated the engine was still running, however, rotor rpm decreasing. The pilot initiated an auto rotation to a grassy area near Contemplation Circle at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. As the pilot neared his intended landing area, he observed multiple people within the area. The pilot stated he initiated a left pedal turn, attempting to land close to the shoreline. Subsequently, the helicopter descended rapidly into the water, about 20 feet from the shoreline.
Witnesses located at various locations at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument reported observing the helicopter near their location traveling at a low altitude before it suddenly descended into the water.
Examination of the accident site revealed that the helicopter was submerged in about 40 feet of water, about 20 feet from the shoreline. The helicopter was removed from the water the day following the accident and was subsequently rinsed with fresh water. All major structural components of the helicopter were recovered. The wreckage was moved to a secure location for further examination.
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Honolulu FSDO-13
HONOLULU — The 16-year-old boy who died following a helicopter crash in Hawaii was a Guelph teen.
Riley Dobson was a horse jumper who competed in several equestrian shows throughout the province. He was a high school student at Centennial Collegiate Vocational Institute in Guelph.
Dobson died at the Pali Momi Medical Centre in Hawaii on Monday after he succumbed to injuries from a tour helicopter that crashed into Pearl Harbor on Thursday.
"So that the 16-year-old's memory lives on, the family has chosen to donate his organs to patients in need," Gidget Ruscetta, chief operating officer at Pali Momi Medical Center, said in a statement.
U.S. navy spokesperson Agnes Tauyan said the helicopter sunk shortly after going down near the visitor centre Thursday.
The family of four visiting from Canada and the pilot on board made it out, but Dobson was trapped underwater and had to be cut free from his seat.
A 45-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man were reported to be hospitalized in stable condition. A fourth family member was treated and released Thursday.
The Upper Grand District School Board issued a statement on Tuesday that said support is available for staff and students affected by Dobson's death through the board's crisis response team made up of guidance counsellors, social workers and youth counsellors.
"We are extremely saddened to learn of the passing of one of our students and our hearts go out to the student's family," it read.
No information is available on the pilot, who was also injured and taken to another hospital.
Tourist Shawn Winrich was taking photos of Pearl Harbor when he saw a helicopter "essentially coming straight at us" at the popular tourist destination.
He switched to video, recording the helicopter's dramatic drop into the water below.
"All of a sudden it essentially just fell out of the sky and crash-landed in the water," the Wisconsin man said.
He stopped filming and jumped in to help.
U.S. federal records show the helicopter is registered to Jeffrey Gebhard of Kailua, Hawaii. A man answering the phone at a number listed for Gebhard said: "I'm sorry, there's no comment. There's an investigation going on."
The U.S. navy said the helicopter belongs to helicopter tour company Genesis Aviation. The website for Genesis Helicopters says it was founded by Gebhard.
A 16-year-old passenger died Monday after being injured last week in a Pearl Harbor helicopter crash, hospital officials said.
The teen and three family members visiting from Canada were aboard a tour helicopter when it crashed into the water near the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center on Thursday.
Their names have not been released.
Two family members remain hospitalized in stable condition. Another was treated and released.
"So that the 16-year-old's memory lives on, the family has chosen to donate his organs to patients in need," Gidget Ruscetta, chief operating officer at Pali Momi Medical Center, said in a statement.
No information was available for the pilot, who was taken to another hospital.
Federal agencies are investigating the crash.
The boy was trapped underwater and had to be cut free from his seat, according to witnesses.
Federal records show the helicopter is registered to Jeffrey Gebhard of Kailua, Hawaii. The Navy said the helicopter reportedly belongs to Genesis Aviation. The website for Genesis Helicopters says it was founded by Gebhard and conducts tours over Oahu.
A call to Gebhard was not answered on Monday. A man who answered at a number listed for him last week declined comment, citing the investigation.
Civilian divers floated the helicopter to the surface Friday and a crane pulled it out. The Navy said the aircraft was taken to Genesis Aviation's hangar at the airport, where the National Transportation Safety Board will conduct an investigation.
It was the second major crash this year involving helicopters on Oahu.
Twelve Hawaii-based Marines were killed when two military helicopters crashed during nighttime training on Jan. 14. Both aircraft were CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters that were part of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463.
Shawn Winrich, visiting from Madison, Wisconsin, was taking photos of Pearl Harbor when he saw the helicopter headed toward the popular tourist destination.
He switched to video, recording the helicopter's dramatic drop into the water.
"All of a sudden it essentially just fell out of the sky and crash-landed in the water," he said last week.
He stopped filming and jumped in to help.
The Honolulu Emergency Services Department took the teen to the hospital in critical condition. On Friday, hospital spokeswoman Kristen Bonilla said the teen was actually 15, but on Monday, she said she was mistaken and he was 16.
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (HawaiiNewsNow) - Wisconsin-native Shawn Winrich captured video of the Bell 206 tour helicopter plunging into the waters near the USS Arizona Memorial Thursday. In a remarkable coincidence, Winrich tells Hawaii News Now it was the same exact chopper he rode two weeks ago, when he first began his Hawaii vacation.
"I double checked my video and you could see the numbers there, it laying there in the water and I was like 'wow'," Winrich said.
The stunning realization came when Winrich connected the downed chopper's tail number, N80918, to the same helicopter in a picture he captured before he boarded. In another twist to the story, Winrich said his February 2nd tour was delayed because of a small plane that crash landed in Keehi Lagoon due to engine and landing gear failure.
"We got to the taxi area and we had to halt and wait for clearance from air traffic control," he said.
Winrich said his aerial tour was smooth and breathtaking, but it's still scary to think it could have been him and his wife aboard the downed chopper Thursday.
"A lot of it was thankfulness it wasn't, amazement and surprise," he said.
What started as a relaxing vacation, has suddenly turned into a whirlwind experience.
"I was almost instantly bombarded with phone calls, emails and comments of people trying to reach and get a hold of me," Winrich said.
In 24 hours, Winrich's 11-second YouTube video has gone viral. It's been seen around the world and broadcast by several media outlets. Not to mention, the original video has been viewed over 2.9 million times.
"I thought it had the potential to turn into something big, but I really wasn't expecting quite the attention it's gotten," said Winrich.
But Winrich said the attention is all worth it if his video helps with the investigation.
Story and video: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com
Air traffic controllers captured the moment right before a chopper went down Thursday morning, injuring five people.
A 15-year-old remains in critical condition. Two adults remain in stable condition.
In the recording, the pilot knew they were in trouble and tried to warn the controllers.
Pilot: Tower, Chopper 8, I think I’m going down.
Tower: Chopper 8, roger. Okay chopper, you said (inaudible) of Ford Island, right?
Tower: Okay Air 1, if you can check next to the Arizona Memorial, please.
Air 1: Arizona Memorial, on my way, ma’am.
Tower: Air 1, we have a report that he’s underwater.
The Hawaii Army National Guard identified him as Ryan Rohner, a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot and warrant officer. He has been with the guard since 1998.
On Friday, crews pulled the helicopter out of the water. Salvage crews attached two inflatable bags underneath the helicopter to help raise it out of about 10 feet of water near the shoreline. It took about an hour to get it out as a crane placed it on a pier at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Officials say it was taken to a hangar where it will be inspected by investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board.
When we asked the NTSB what it’ll be looking for to determine the cause of the crash, a spokesman sent us a statement saying, “NTSB will examine the aircraft to see if there are any mechanical issues that could have either contributed or caused the crash. Maintenance records, the pilot’s records, air traffic communications, if available, and radar data, all will be reviewed.”
As far as life vests, federal guidelines require that each passenger must have one within reach.
Commercial pilot Brad Hayes tells us it’s always better for passengers to wear them throughout the flight. “Most tour operators in Hawaii, to my knowledge, wear the life vest around their waist, but it’s not over their neck. It’s in a little pouch around your waist,” he said.
“They’re wearing them throughout the flight?” KHON2 asked.
“Yes, but the requirement is to have them available,” Hayes said.
“Because it might be hard to put it on if the helicopter goes down fast?” KHON2 asked.
“Yeah, it would be tough,” Hayes said.
Some helicopters are equipped with floats which can prevent the aircraft from sinking. Hayes tells us that’s up to the company if they want to put those on because they are expensive.
Hayes, who has over 5,000 hours of flying time, said the pilot did a really good job of controlling the aircraft and putting it down close to the shoreline and avoiding crashing into the visitor center.
“It looked like it was under control, and the reason why he put it in the water right off of those boulders was that if he tried to keep it going, there was a good chance that the boulders probably would have been worse than the water,” Hayes said.
We went back to Genesis Helicopters, which owns the aircraft, but the office was locked and no one returned our calls. The company posted a message on its website:
It is with our deepest and sincerest of apologies that due to the tragic event that happened with our helicopter yesterday, we’ll be unable to provide tours/charter services until further notice.
Our utmost thoughts and concern go out to our pilot (his family), our passengers that were onboard that flight, and to all others that were affected by this unfortunate event. We’re absolutely at a lost for words as no words can describe the pain we’re experiencing right now.
Mahalo for your understanding…
The Crew @ Genesis
We also looked at the helicopter’s maintenance records and learned that it was built in 1979, but records did not indicate that the aircraft has had any major problems.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center announced it will resume full operations Saturday, which include documentary screenings in the theater and boat trips to the USS Arizona Memorial. The center opens at 7 a.m.
The USS Bowfin Submarine, USS Battleship Missouri Memorial, and Pacific Aviation Museum continue to be open to the public.
Story and video: http://khon2.com
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (HawaiiNewsNow) - A sightseeing helicopter that crashed into waters just off the Arizona Memorial visitors center has been recovered and is being transported to a Honolulu hangar.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the Thursday morning crash, which critically injured a 15-year-old boy and left two others in serious condition.
About 1 p.m. Friday, civilian divers and military personnel attached inflatable bags to the downed helicopter, and floated it to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. From there, the chopper was to be towed to Honolulu airport.
The chopper had been touring Waimea and was returning to Honolulu when it plunged into the water, to the disbelief of scores of visitors at the center. Five people were on board: the pilot and a family of four visiting from Canada.
The 15-year-old passenger remains in critical condition at Pali Momi Medical Center, a spokeswoman said.
Another family member was taken the Kaiser Moanalua Medical Center in serious condition. The pilot, Ryan Rohner, was also seriously injured and was taken to Tripler Army Medical Center. Two others on the chopper, a 50-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman, were in stable condition at Pali Momi.
Boat trips to the USS Arizona Memorial were canceled Friday, though the visitor center was open.
Rohner is a chief warrant officer two in the Army National Guard, and has years of experience flying helicopters commercially and in the military.
He was flying a Bell-206B chopper, operated by Genesis Aviation, when it came down about 10:30 a.m., after experiencing a rapid descent that caught the attention of memorial visitors. Several witnesses also said they saw smoke coming from the helicopter's tail shortly before it went down.
After the crash, good Samaritans jumped into the 8-foot waters off the center's esplanade to help the passengers and pilot to shore. Witnesses described a surreal scene as the chopper dropped in the water just feet from groups of people visiting one of Hawaii's most iconic tourist attractions.
"It was just crazy, unbelievable," said Daniel Rose, who's visiting from Michigan. "I'm just still in awe. It dropped maybe 10 foot off the shore and sank like a rock. I just thank God for the people on the shore who dove in and helped the people get out of the helicopter."
'Thoughts and prayers' to families
Jeff Gebhard owns Genesis Aviation, the company involved in the crash, and told Hawaii News Now on Thursday night that he's been in contact with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.
He added, "I just want to say that our thoughts and our prayers go out to the families that are affected by this tragedy today."
Max Burner, of Redwood City, Calif., said the helicopter was "sputtering" at about 500 feet, before it started quickly losing altitude. "As soon as it hit the water, some people popped out," said Burner, who was among those who jumped into the water to help the passengers to shore.
Witness Roy Gano said his initial reaction when seeing the helicopter was that it was flying a bit low.
"It then hovered for a second and then started to descend," he said. "It was not spinning out of control, but it was dropping at a good rate. It narrowly missed the rocky edge and turned to its side. I saw people dive into the water to help."
Bystanders jumped into action
Australian visitor Amber Moncrieff said she didn't see the chopper go down, but heard two loud bangs that "we thought were gunshots."
"We saw people running, which obviously made us scared," she said.
Those who dove into the water said a knife was needed to free one of the passengers from a seatbelt in the chopper.
Video of the chopper crash, shot by a visitor, quickly went viral. It shows the helicopter plunging into the water just off the Contemplation Circle at the visitors center; in the background, witnesses can be heard shouting in disbelief.
"It came right down and pulled up just short of land," said visitor George Tizedes. "Everybody started running over there."
Chris Gardner was among those who jumped into the water. The part-time Keawe Adventures employee was still a bit shaken mid-day Thursday, after washing aviation fuel from his eyes and face.
"I heard the helicopter auto-rotate, which means the engine went out and then people started running and screaming," he said.
By the time he got there, everyone was out of the helicopter except the 15-year-old. Gardner said the boy was stuck in a seatbelt, and so he and a handful of other good Samaritans took turns using a knife to cut away the belt.
"I came up for a breath and then went down, and then we were bringing him up," he said.
Tour company owner: 'It's just tragic'
Gebhard, of Genesis Aviation, said he was in Waikiki picking up another set of passenger when he got a phone call about the crash.
"Obviously it's something no one ever wants to see," he said. "It's just tragic. That's all I can say."
Gebhard said the family of four -- a father, mother, and two sons -- along with his pilot, were on their way back from a tour around Waimea. He said they were on the last part of the tour when the chopper slammed into the water. Gebhard said he believes his pilot was trying to land on land.
"Once you enter the water, then it's a whole new set of problems because egress from the water is much more difficult than on land," Gebhard said.
Gebhard said he tried to visit the victims at the hospital, but was unable to get in. He added that his pilot has years of experience and even flew in the Army.
It's unclear when the chopper wreckage will be salvaged.
HONOLULU (KHON2) — A 15-year-old boy is in critical condition after a civilian helicopter crashed into waters near the USS Arizona Memorial Thursday.
According to the U.S. Navy, it happened at about 10:30 a.m. in the area near the Ford Island bridge and the National Park Service Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.
Five people were on board at the time.
Witnesses tell us they saw the chopper when it was about 30 yards offshore and knew right away that something was terribly wrong.
“It kept sputtering, very erratic flying, probably 20 yards from shore, maybe 30 feet up, looks like he cut the prop, because the helicopter dropped down and hit the water probably 20 yards offshore, sat there for about 20 seconds bobbing, then it went under,” said witness Daniel Rose. “Guys started going in the water, diving down. Two people came up.”
Shawn Winrich was enjoying the day and using his phone to take photos of the harbor when he noticed the aircraft. “It seemed out of place and not normal, so I switched to video real quick and shot the video clip,” he told KHON2. “I didn’t see parts flying. It wasn’t a real hard impact. There wasn’t an explosion. I remember thinking split-second, I’m behind a concrete barricade wall about knee-high, and I was just about ready to duck if I seen anything flying.”
The helicopter’s proximity to shore meant bystanders could jump in and rescue the passengers within minutes. North Shore resident Chris Gardner was one of them.
“Someone said there’s somebody still in the aircraft, so I dove through from the pilot’s side and the back seat and saw him, and saw the seat was twisted, so it’s just instinct at this point,” he said. “I jumped in and tried to extract him and one of the Navy policemen, Brian, had a knife, and we took turns cutting on the seat belt and finally got him out.”
“I ended the video real quick because I was going to run over. I jumped the wall and ran over to the helicopter, got everything out of my pockets, and was just about to jump in, and there were a bunch of people jumping in to help,” Winrich said.
Witnesses say without the help of those bystanders the scenario could have turned out much worse.
“It was just a few feet out into the water, so maybe 20 feet out from the actual rock shore, so real close, luckily,” Winrich said. “I hope the pilot planned that intentionally. If not, he just got lucky it was in that area, probably the best place because it was real close, easy access to a bunch of people to help if anything happens.”
Honolulu Emergency Medical Services treated a total of three patients, including the boy. A 50-year-old man and a 45-year-old woman were treated and transported to the hospital in stable condition.
Gidget Ruscetta, chief operating officer at Pali Momi Medical Center, released the following statement:
Earlier today, a helicopter crashed near the Arizona Memorial with five individuals on board, including a family of four. Three of the family members involved were brought to Pali Momi Medical Center for treatment. Two are in stable condition and one is in critical condition. A fourth family member was treated at another area hospital and released. The family does not wish to speak to the media at this time. Out of courtesy and respect for their request, we will not be providing any additional information.
The other two patients were treated and transported by the Federal Fire Department’s medical crews on their ambulances.
Operations at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, including visits to the USS Arizona Memorial have been suspended until further notice. No new visitors are being admitted and all boat rides have been canceled.
How did this happen? Investigation underway
The Federal Fire Department and security personnel immediately secured the area. We’re told the helicopter will be towed out of the water Friday.
The FAA issued a statement that the helicopter involved in the crash is a Bell 206 helicopter. FAA investigators are on their way and the NTSB has been notified.
The helicopter belonged to Genesis Helicopters, and appeared to be on a tour over Pearl Harbor. The company has been around since 1999.
According to NTSB records, neither the company nor the helicopter have been involved in any past accidents.
The helicopter can fit up to five people and specializes in “doors-off” tours, which claim to offer better viewing and photo opportunities.
We went to the the company’s office twice Thursday, but no one would talk to us.
According to Genesis Helicopter’s website, it offers two tours, one that goes around Oahu and a shorter tour that only covers the south shore. Both tours include flyovers over Pearl Harbor.
The FAA says the National Transportation Safety Board is leading an open-crash investigation to look into whether the tour helicopter was following rules and regulations before the crash.
When something goes wrong, aviation analyst Peter Forman says a pilot doesn’t have much time to react.
“Typically, at the altitude that helicopters cruise at, he has less than a minute to put that thing on the ground, so he was a very busy guy,” Forman said.
FAA guidelines say tour helicopters must stay at 1,000 feet or below when entering Honolulu airspace.
“If there is a power failure, all helicopter pilots are taught to auto rotate,” Forman said.
Auto rotation allows wind to flow through a helicopter’s blades, creating enough power for the pilot to move the helicopter to a safe place on the ground.
“(The pilot appears to be) looking for the place to bring the helicopter down. He’s coming down at a fairly good angle, he didn’t have a lot of choices at that point,” Forman said.
A pilot who personally knows the pilot flying the downed chopper says he believes the helicopter suffered some sort of mechanical failure, by what appears on video.
The FAA says it regularly inspects helicopter tour operators. Changes were made in 2007 after a string of helicopter crashes.
“I think we see so many crashes in Hawaii because there are so many here. It’s a thriving business with tour helicopters,” said Forman.
Among those changes, helicopters that fly over water must install floats, and have better pre-flight passengers briefings and life preservers.
Crash video goes viral
Winrich uploaded his video clip to YouTube under the account “mrmotofy.” The video has since been requested and reposted by media outlets from all over the world.
He admitted he struggled with the decision to post the video. “Honestly my first thought was to help them. That’s why the video just ended,” he said. “I wanted to balance respect for what just happened. I wasn’t sure about all the complicated things, so I wanted to wait and clear my head a little bit and tried to decide if I should or shouldn’t.”
Ultimately, he said, he saw the video as a reflection of “just that amazing factor of what just happened, and then something like that, you’re right in front of it, nobody expects it to happen, but it does, and so just immediately, someone starts running to help, because that’s how most humans are. That’s our human nature generally. When something tragic happens, you want to try to help them.”