TOM FINNEGAN / TFINNEGAN@STARBULLETIN.COM
Investigators have not yet determined what caused an Inter-Island helicopter to crash on March 11 in the field at a YMCA Camp on Kauai's North Shore, as divers search for the pieces of wreckage that fell into the ocean off Haena.
Cause of crash eludes investigators
Federal investigators have yet to determine what caused a helicopter to lose its tail rotor before crash-landing at the YMCA camp in Haena, Kauai, on March 11.
While divers continue to search for the pieces of wreckage that fell off into the ocean off Haena, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board will test the remaining parts of the tail of the Inter-Island Helicopters chopper to determine what caused the rotor, shaft and tail rotor output, as well as part of the tail rotor gearbox, to fall off.
The report said an initial inspection done at the NTSB lab Thursday determined the fractures on the remaining portion of the gearbox were "typical of overstress" and not metal fatigue.
Inter-Island pilot Donald Torres said he checked the tail rotor of the chopper, a Hughes 500, at least three times that day, prior to flying helicopter tours, the report indicated.
He experienced no odd vibrations or noise prior to the loud noise, the report said.
Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration not only checked Inter-Island's records, the report said, but reviewed the records of the "facility that overhauled the tail rotor gearbox."
However, the name of the company and when the overhaul took place were absent.
Investigators also interviewed the passengers in the rear seats, Douglas and Judy Barton of Newport, N.H., who said they did not see birds in the area before the crash nor anything fall out of the chopper.
Torres told investigators that despite losing his tail rotor and spinning around and around, he was able to find the campground, slow down the spin and put the chopper on the ground.
Torres told investigators that after hearing the loud "bangs," he lost the ability to control the tail rotor using the pedals and that the helicopter was trying to "yaw right."
He tried to get more airspeed, which can keep the helicopter body from spinning in the event of a tail rotor loss, but he was unable to do so. After the "right yaw" turned into a "tight spin," Torres told investigators, he was able to use the main rotor controls to slow down the spin.
After finding the campgrounds, the report said, Torres attempted to auto-rotate into the campground and, before landing, tried to make the blow as soft as possible.
Torres was unharmed. The Bartons remain in fair condition at the Queen's Medical Center, a spokeswoman for the hospital said Thursday.
Dania Hansen, 60, of Los Altos, Calif., has been discharged from Wilcox Memorial Hospital, officials said yesterday.
Michael Gershon, 60, of Walnut Creek, Calif., died in the crash.