STAR-BULLETIN / 2007
A National Transportation Safety Board report released Wednesday said the failure of a tail rotor fitting caused the crash of an Inter-Island Helicopters tour craft on Kauai last year, killing one person and injuring three others.
Tail rotor fitting blamed in fatal helicopter crash
An NTSB report singles out a tight connecting piece that led to the 2007 death on Kauai
HAENA, Kauai » A mechanical defect caused the fatal March 11, 2007, Inter-Island Helicopters crash near Tunnels Beach on the north shore, a National Transportation Safety Board report concluded.
The report, released Wednesday on the NTSB Web site, said the failure of a tail rotor fitting led to the tail rotor coming off the McDonnell Douglas 369FF.
The helicopter made a hard landing at YMCA Camp Naue after rotating over several houses in the area. One person died -- Michael Gershon, 60, of Walnut Creek, Calif. -- and three others were seriously injured.
According to the report, one of the fittings that connected the tail rotor to the helicopter was too tight, and fatigue eventually cracked the metal.
Pilot Donald Torres of Kauai was able to land the helicopter without the tail rotor, but he hit some trees on the way to the YMCA field, and the helicopter did not land on the skids, the report said.
After the inspection of the parts of the Inter-Island craft last year, McDonnell Helicopters put out a mandatory bulletin to remove the tail rotor and check the tail rotor hub for any fittings that are not smooth, the report added. The defect was also found in two other helicopters in New Zealand.
Passengers Douglas and Judy Barton, both of Newport, N.H., settled their lawsuit last month with manufacturer Boeing Co. and parts maker Aluminum Precision Products.
The companies agreed to pay $9.5 million to the couple, who have racked up nearly $1 million in medical bills.
Judy Barton, 52, was paralyzed from the waist down. Her husband, 62, has suffered back injuries that prevent him from returning to work.
The Naue landing was the second fatal helicopter crash in a week on Kauai's north shore in March 2007.
The NTSB has yet to release a probable-cause report of the Heli USA crash at Princeville Airport, which killed four people three days before the Inter-Island crash.