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Wreckage of helicopter carrying seven people found in Hawaii

The helicopter was carrying a pilot and six passengers on a tour of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast.

Coast Guard members have been searching the Na Pali coast (Lt. j.g. Daniel Winter/AP)
Coast Guard members have been searching the Na Pali coast (Lt. j.g. Daniel Winter/AP)

By Caleb Jones, Associated Press

The wreckage of a helicopter carrying seven visitors to one of the most remote coastlines in Hawaii has been found in a mountainous area on the island of Kauai.

Officials said they are sending additional resources and searching for possible survivors of the crash.

Searchers began looking for the helicopter carrying a pilot and six passengers after it was reported overdue from a tour of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast on Thursday evening. Two passengers are believed to be children, the Coast Guard said.

Steep terrain, low visibility, choppy seas and rain had complicated the search, the agency said.

The helicopter company, identified as Safari Helicopters, contacted the Coast Guard about 6pm on Thursday to say the aircraft was about 30 minutes overdue, authorities said.

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Coast Guard cutter William Hart moves toward the Na Pali coast (Lt. j.g. Daniel Winter/AP)

According to a preliminary report, the pilot relayed that the tour was leaving the Waimea Canyon area, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, at about 4.40pm, which was the last contact with the helicopter, Kauai police said.

The Eurocopter AS350 had lifted off from the town of Lihue, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.

The helicopter has an emergency electronic locator transmitter but no signals were received. Mr Gregor said the locator devices are designed to activate when an aircraft crashes.

The FAA requires the locators to be able to withstand impact. However, it is possible for the device to become inoperable from an extreme crash and a signal can be shrouded if an aircraft is in a deep canyon or gorge, Mr Gregor said.

He said the agency is looking at the company’s safety record but will not have a full report until Monday. It is investigating along with the National Transportation Safety Board.

The helicopter was found in a mountainous region inland from the Na Pali Coast, which is one of the most dramatic and sought-after destinations in Hawaii and was featured in the film Jurassic Park.

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Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park where the helicopter had been (Dan Dennison/Hawaii DLNR via AP)

Towering mountains with deep ravines and huge waterfalls make up the interior of the uninhabited state park. Red rock cliffs with thick jungle canopies rise from the Pacific Ocean to over 4,000 feet high.

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman Dan Dennison, who has spent years visiting and photographing the area, said winter brings more rain and turbulent seas.

“During the winter, flash floods frequently close the trail out of safety concerns,” he said. “It has numerous streams that can rise very fast.”

The weather is the primary challenge to any search-and-rescue operation in the area, Mr Dennison said.

“You can have very low ceilings. You can have fog and cloud banks that move in very quickly. You can have heavy rain and strong winds that make flying difficult if not impossible at times,” he said.

The shoreline has beaches that could potentially serve as emergency landing zones, but they are “few and far between,” he said.

PA

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