Police: All 7 killed in Hawaii tour helicopter crash

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(CNN) — Authorities have suspended recovery efforts for a tour helicopter crash in the Hawaiian island of Kauai that left a pilot and six passengers dead.

The crash scene has been handed over to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for investigation, the Kauai Police Department said in a statement on Sunday.

There were no survivors in the crash on December 26, police said.

“We offer our continued condolences and prayers to the families and friends of the victims,” KPD Assistant Chief Bryson Ponce said in the statement. “As we continue to search for and recover evidence pertinent to this tragic helicopter crash, we hope to bring some sense of closure to the loved ones of the victims.”

Some of the victims of the crash have been preliminary identified, police said.

The pilot was Paul Matero, 69 of Wailua, Hawaii and two victims were Amy Gannon, 47, and Jocelyn Gannon, 13, of Wisconsin, a Kauai police spokesperson told CNN.

Four other victims are believed to be members of a family from Switzerland. Their identities will not be released until authorities have contacted their next of kin, police said.

The helicopter went down about 13 miles north of the city of Hanapepe, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The last communication from the pilot came around 4:40 p.m. local time, about 40 minutes before the helicopter was due to return, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir told CNN on Friday.

The debris was found in a remote area of a state park on the island’s northwest side, police said in a news release.

Safari Helicopters has confirmed its helicopter was missing but declined to provide additional details.

Multiple agencies, including the US Coast Guard, the US Navy and the Kauai Fire Department, were involved in searching for the helicopter and were aided by private helicopter companies.

The aircraft was equipped with an electronic locator, but officials did not receive a signal from it, Muir said.

Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Cox, of Coast Guard Joint Rescue Command Center Honolulu, previously said weather conditions in the search area were “challenging,” with low visibility and blustery winds, according to CNN affiliate KHNL/KGMB.

“There was a cold front that came through the area around that time, bringing scattered showers and an increase of wind gusts,” CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash of what the FAA said was a Eurocopter AS350 B2.

Some parts only accessible by sea or air

Several tour companies conduct helicopter tours every day on Kauai, depending on the weather, the Coast Guard said. Nearly 80% of the island — sometimes called the “Garden Island” — is uninhabited. Some parts are only accessible by sea or air, according to Hawaii’s travel website.

Earlier this year, three people were killed on the island of Oahu when their tour helicopter crashed in a residential neighborhood.

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