KAUAI COPTER CRASH
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
A roadside memorial consisting of flowers, a Bible and a stuffed animal was put along the fence of the Princeville Airport yesterday. Thursday's fatal crash claimed four lives and left three critically injured.
Accident impact felt from Kauai to Texas
A trio dies and their spouses are injured in the Kauai accident
PRINCEVILLE, Kauai » Three couples from the mainland -- one celebrating their 25th anniversary, another couple just married -- were identified as being on the Heli USA A-Star 350BA helicopter that crashed Thursday afternoon on the lone runway of Princeville Airport.
One spouse from each couple died in the crash; the survivors are at the Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu.
Police identified the couples as John and Victoria O'Donnell of East Rockaway, N.Y.; James and Teri McCarty of Cabot, Ark.; and Cornelius Scholtz and Margaret Inglebrecht of Santa Maria, Calif.
Along with pilot Joe Sulak of Princeville, Kauai, Teri McCarty, John O'Donnell and Inglebrecht died in the crash.
McCarty's husband, James; O'Donnell's wife, Veronica; and Inglebrecht's newlywed husband, Scholtz, remained in critical condition last night.
COURTESY TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
Debris and the wreckage of the Heli USA A-Star helicopter sat shrouded yesterday on Kauai.
Rosemary Crescitelli, the O'Donnells' next-door neighbor, told Honolulu television station KITV that the couple came to Hawaii for their 25th wedding anniversary on a trip paid for by their two adult children.
"John was just very caring and giving and lovable and helpful," Crescitelli said. "And his wife ... is the same way. We just love her."
Scholtz and his wife were married 11 months ago, said Molly Miller, a former co-worker at CVS Pharmacy in Santa Maria, where Scholtz had worked as a pharmacist.
"She's a sweet girl, a wonderful person, outgoing, friendly," said Miller, who had only met Inglebrecht through Scholtz. She recently graduated from a college in South Africa, she said.
Scholtz arrived in California two or three years ago and worked at CVS with Miller and would talk about wanting to take his wife on a vacation to Hawaii, she said.
Scholtz left CVS for Rite Aid last fall. The last time she saw him was about a month ago when he stopped by to give her a hug, Miller said. They were a wonderful couple, she said.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Gini Wittorff, Donna Hermann and Bette Conroy flew with Heli USA helicopter pilot Joe Sulak the day before Thursday's fatal accident in Princeville.
State officials are setting up a victims assistance center to help family members flying in to be with those still struggling to survive.
Also yesterday, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration began their investigation of the crash, but the afternoon's heavy rain kept them away from the aircraft, which still sits under a tarp on a grass patch near Princeville Airport's runway.
A makeshift roadside memorial of flowers, a Bible and a small teddy bear holding a red plumeria lay yesterday against the wire fence of the tiny, privately owned airport, which was closed to the public. An American flag was lowered to half-staff in front of the Heli USA hangar.
Heli USA grounded the rest of its aircraft until at least Monday out of respect for the victims and staff, said Nigel Turner, the Las Vegas-based company's chief executive officer.
Other helicopter companies started flying just after 7 a.m. yesterday morning out of Lihue Airport, until the heavy rain grounded all flights before midday.
Local air tour companies reported that there were some cancellations and a few questioning phone calls but some new business as well. One family who was supposed to fly Heli USA yesterday rebooked and went out on one of the first flights yesterday morning, said employees at Air Kauai Helicopters.
Heli USA's scenic helicopter tour, which costs $240 per person, takes passengers across the lush island to see waterfalls, canyons, the rugged Na Pali coastline and humpback whales in the ocean.
The pilot, Sulak, had a clear FAA record in at least 30 years of flying, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.
He received his pilot instructor's license in 1977, and his air transport pilot's certificate, the FAA's "most advanced license ... like a Ph.D.," in 1978, Gregor added. He also had more than 10,000 hours of experience flying in A-Star helicopters alone.
Since 1994, 39 people have been killed in 10 helicopter accidents in Hawaii.
The last fatal tourist helicopter crash on Kauai involved a Heli USA A-Star 350 that flew into a thunderstorm in September 2005. Three passengers drowned when the helicopter sank in the ocean.
Star-Bulletin reporter Robert Shikina and the Associated Press contributed to this report.