Mother, daughter from Madison identified in Hawaii helicopter crash
Two passengers on board the helicopter that crashed on its way back from a sightseeing tour of the Na Pali Coast have been recovered and preliminarily identified as Madison residents, according to the flight manifest.
Two of the victims are 47-year-old Amy Gannon and her 13-year-old daughter Jocelyn Gannon of Madison. Jocelyn Gannon attended Hamilton Middle School in Madison, according to Tim Lemonds of the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Amy Gannon was an entrepreneur and was a former instructor at Edgewood College. Ed Taylor, Edgewood College's Director of Communications, said she was very dynamic and devoted to empowering women in business.
"This will be a loss that will touch all corners of greater Madison," said Taylor. "She is very well known, and I know very well respected and admired for the work that she’s done. I’m at a bit of a loss."
The seven people on board included two children. The pilot is believed to be 69-year-old Paul Matero of Wailua, according to initial reports.
The other four individuals have not yet been named, but they are believed to be a family visiting from Switzerland.
“There are no indications of survivors,” said Kauai Fire Department Battalion Chief Sol Kanoho, at a news conference Friday afternoon ― roughly 24 hours after the helicopter went missing.
At the same availability, a somber Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami offered his condolences to the families of the victims and called the situation over the course of the day “dynamic.”
“We ask for your continued thoughts and prayers,” he said. “We are heartbroken by this tragedy and we continue to ask the public to consider the sensitive nature of this devastating situation.”
First responders found the chopper wreckage about 9:30 am. Friday in a remote area of Kokee, about 13 miles north of Hanapepe. They were able to remove six sets of remains from the crash site.
But by about 3:30 p.m., fog and poor visibility forced Kauai firefighters to suspend their search for the seventh person onboard the chopper until Saturday morning.
Kanoho declined to release any details on the victims, but said in addition to the pilot, there were two groups of passengers on the chopper ― a party of two and a party of four.
The FAA said the helicopter that went down was a Eurocopter AS350 B2. Its safety record was not immediately available.
The NTSB plans to send three investigators to Hawaii, and they’re slated to arrive over the weekend.
Kanoho said the helicopter went down on a “prescribed route” for air tours, indicating that the pilot didn’t deviate on the way back to Lihue.
The aircraft was due to return from the Na Pali Coast tour at 5:21 p.m. Thursday.
When the helicopter didn’t get back by 6 p.m., the Coast Guard was alerted and a search was launched.
According to a preliminary report, authorities made their final contact with the helicopter around 4:40 p.m., when the pilot reported that the tour was leaving the Waimea Canyon area.
The aircraft belongs to Safari Helicopters, a tour helicopter company based in Lihue. Company officials declined to comment Friday.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Gov. David Ige said the state has offered its support as recovery operations continue.
“Our thoughts are with the families of those onboard as search and rescue crews work at the site of the helicopter crash on Kauai," he said.
The aircraft was equipped with an electronic locator, but it didn’t go off. After the chopper went missing, the Coast Guard launched a search by air and sea.
The Navy, Civil Air Patrol, Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Kauai National Guard, and commercial helicopters subsequently joined the search.
Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Cox, of Coast Guard Joint Rescue Command Center Honolulu, said weather conditions in the search area were “challenging" with low visibility and blustery winds.
The incident is the third helicopter crash in Hawaii so far this year.
In April, a helicopter went down on a busy Kailua street, killing all three people onboard.
That same month, a state-contracted helicopter crashed in Sacred Falls Valley on Oahu’s North Shore. Four people in the craft escaped injury.
Other recent incidents include:
- A chopper that crash landed on a Kaneohe Bay sandbar in October 2018, injuring the pilot and two passengers.
- The January 2016 crash of a tour helicopter on Kauai’s Na Pali Coast. In that incident, five passengers suffered injuries.
- A February 2016 crash of a helicopter into Pearl Harbor that killed a teenage passenger visiting with his family from Canada.