Feds put blame on dead pilots in 2 fatal crashes
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The federal agency that investigates air crashes has found that pilots were to blame in two crashes into mountainous terrain in Hawaii in 2003 and 2004.
Four passengers and a pilot died on July 23, 2003, when a tour helicopter operated by Jack Harter Helicopters Inc. crashed at the 4,500-foot level of Mount Waialeale, Kauai.
The National Transportation Safety Board ruled that the crashed was caused by the pilot, Mark Lundgren, 44, a retired Navy pilot, who failed to maintain proper altitude over the mountainous area while descending in poor weather. Two couples from the mainland, both celebrating wedding anniversaries, also died in the crash.
In another report issued Friday, the NTSB said pilot Ward Mareels, 54, of Kailua, Oahu, failed to use necessary caution when his Cessna crashed into the side of Haleakala on the night of Oct. 17, 2004. Mareels was flying without instruments from Kahului to Kailua-Kona.
In a third accident, engine damage from a foreign object caused a plane to lose power and the student pilot to ditch it on Maui on Jan. 6, 2005, the NTSB said. The pilot was not injured.
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Pilot error in negotiating mountainous terrain was cited as the cause of two fatal air crashes in Hawaii after investigations by the National Transportation Safety Board.
A third crash, involving a student pilot at the controls of a Cessna, was caused by damage to the engine from a foreign object, the NTSB also reported Friday.
Four passengers and a pilot died on July 23, 2003, when a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter operated by Jack Harter Helicopters Inc. crashed at the 4,500-foot level of Mount Waialeale, Kauai.
The NTSB ruled that the crashed was caused by the pilot, Mark Lundgren, 44, a retired Navy pilot, who failed to maintain proper altitude over a mountainous area while descending in poor weather.
Also killed were Edward Wadiak and his wife, Teresa, of Manassas, Va., and Monica and Jeffrey Peterson of Denver. Both couples were celebrating wedding anniversaries.
The helicopter approached the side of the mountain in cloudy weather as seen on a passenger's video camera recovered from the wreckage, said the NTSB.
"Within the last 14 seconds of flight, a descent was initiated, which increased in vertical speed to 2,000 feet per minute," the report said. Based on the flight path, the terrain and structural damage, "NTSB calculations indicated the helicopter initially contacted the mountainside with a skid while descending in at least a 45-degree nose-low pitch attitude," the report said.
The chopper tumbled down the slope and split in two, yet one of the passengers, a woman, survived the impact and was found conscious by fire rescue specialists.
She died before she could be evacuated, however.
According to the NTSB report, that area of Kauai qualifies as Class G airspace, which requires visibility of at least three miles and prohibits flights within 300 feet of a cloud.
On the moonless night of Oct. 17, 2004, the pilot of a twin-engine Cessna 310 died when the plane crashed into the side of Haleakala on a flight from Kahului to Kailua-Kona.
The NTSB report says the pilot, Ward Mareels, 54, of Kailua, Oahu, made no emergency radio calls and had normal conversations with the flight tower during his seven minutes in the air. He was flying without using navigation instruments.
However, witnesses on the ground reported seeing the plane just 200 feet above the treetops before it crashed onto property owned by TV star Oprah Winfrey. The pilot was ejected from the airplane and thrown about 50 feet above the first point of impact.
On Jan. 6, 2005, a student pilot in a Cessna made a forced landing on Maui after he experienced engine trouble on a flight from Hana to Kahului.
Damage from a foreign object inside an engine cylinder caused the plane to lose power, the NTSB said. The plane hit trees on impact near Wailua Point.
The student pilot, the lone occupant, was not injured, but the plane was badly damaged. The report found there was mechanical damage on the piston face and internal cylinder head.