Helicopter pilot charged with reckless death of 3 on Kauai
Findings that he lied and tampered with evidence are"baffling," says the tour operator
LIHUE » A former Kauai helicopter pilot was indicted last week on manslaughter and other charges in a September crash that caused the death of three people.
Glen Lampton, the Heli USA pilot, is accused of "recklessly causing the death" of Mary Soucy and Catherine Baron of Maine and Laverne Clifton of Ohio "by piloting the helicopter in an unsafe manner and/or in unsafe conditions," according to the indictment.
Lampton, who is in Las Vegas, was also charged with making false statements to investigators and tampering with evidence, as well as recklessly endangering the lives of the two survivors.
He's expected to turn himself in to Kauai authorities early next month, according to Kauai Prosecuting Attorney Craig De Costa.
"We're baffled," said Heli USA spokesman John Power. "We've never seen this before in the aviation industry ... where weather was a factor in the crash."
Lampton had been working for Heli USA for about six or seven weeks when he ran into bad weather on a sightseeing tour, and the helicopter plunged into the ocean near Haena Point.
Power said three or four other helicopter tours were in the area at the time of the crash when the "adverse weather was unavoidable."
But unlike other pilots, Lampton did not attempt to turn away from the storm until he was engulfed in it, officials said.
He told investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration that the craft was forced into the thunderstorm when another helicopter came out of the weather and right at him, but this was disputed by the survivors and the other pilot.
Lampton also told investigators he never lost sight of land, a requirement for the tours. But according to the preliminary investigation conducted by the NTSB, the weather at the time was instrument-rated, meaning visibility was so low that a pilot must be able to rely on instruments.
According to Power, Lampton, who is still employed by the company but is not flying, has undergone training to handle inadvertent entrance into instrument-rated conditions.
Power, who said Heli USA employees were never questioned by prosecutors, cautioned the public to wait until the full NTSB investigation is completed in January.
"Once the prosecutors get the full report, (they will see) it was purely an accident and not negligence," he said.