In this image from video, emergency personnel yesterday examined the wreckage of a helicopter which had crashed on Kilauea Volcano Sunday. Authorities investigating the fatal crash were forced to speed up recovery of the wreckage after lava began encroaching on the crash site, officials said.

family ID’d as
crash victims

Authorities hasten to remove
wreckage threatened by lava

HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK >> A family of three from southern Pennsylvania was among those killed in the crash of a tour helicopter at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Sunday, according to information from the park and from Pennsylvania.

Nicole Laughman: She, her mother and her stepfather were killed in Sunday's crash

The victims were identified by the park as Jody Laughman, her daughter Nicole and the girl's stepfather, James Thomas. The park also identified the pilot as Russell Holliday.

The chopper, a Hughes 500-D, was owned by Tropical Helicopters in Hilo.

The Thomas-Laughman family lived in rural Adams County, where Civil War battlefield site Gettysburg is the county seat.

Even before the names were officially confirmed in Hawaii, friends in Pennsylvania were starting to feel their loss.

Cars were parked in a long line in front of the Lake Meade community, where the family lived, as friends came to pay their respects, the local newspaper York Daily Record reported.

Erika Hess, 13, wiped away tears as she described her friendship with Nicole, also 13, known to her those close to her as "Fluffy," the paper said. "I miss her so much. Now I don't have her anymore," she said.

In Hawaii, federal officials and park rangers working rapidly to avoid lava flows yesterday used a rented helicopter to move the wreckage.

From the crash spot in the coastal flow field, pieces of the downed chopper were airlifted two miles to a truck waiting at a turn-off at Chain of Craters Road.

Three flights were needed to remove pieces of the fuselage, said ranger Kupono McDaniell, who was at the site. Several duffel bags were filled with smaller pieces of metal strewn around the area, he said.

The helicopter's rotors were brought out in nets, he said.

The helicopter was still partly intact, and some of the paint on it was undamaged, in spite of a fire that burned for several hours even with water being dropped on it by helicopters that were mopping up the remains of a nearby forest fire.

Miscellaneous pieces, partially wrapped in blue tarpaulins, were taken to a hangar at Hilo airport next to the Civil Air Patrol hangar.

The recovery effort was under the supervision of National Transportation Safety Board investigator Tealeye Cornejo. Requests for information were referred to an NTSB officer in Washington, D.C., whose office was closed by the time his name was provided.

Tourists visiting the park yesterday were aware of the crash and were able to peer at the crash site through a small telescope set up at the end of Chain of Craters Road.

Despite the telescope, nothing could be seen of the crash site. Rangers pointed to the spot in the lava fields on the hillside because that was where they saw the park's own rented helicopter coming and going, said ranger Ruth Levin.

By daylight the lava threatening to overflow the site could not be seen, either. Levin insisted the danger was real, with a million cubic meters (roughly a million cubic yards) of lava per day pouring over inland cliffs.

"If you were standing here at night, you'd be amazed at how much lava is on the mountain side," she said.

One of those looking through the telescope was Patty Rush, of Santa Clara, Calif. She, her husband and her daughter, 12, flew over the general area with a different tour company Sunday, about two hours after the Tropical Helicopters aircraft went down. Rush called the flight a "spiritual experience."

She did not realize until later why the pilot told passengers that he was diverting a bit from his planned route. It was to avoid having them see the crash site, she said.


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