Crash victims
had wedding plans

A fifth victim's body remains
trapped under the wreckage


Thursday, September 30, 2004

» Tim Stokesbary is one of three rescue crewmen lowered by helicopter Tuesday to a Kauai ridge to retrieve the bodies of people killed in a tour-helicopter crash. A Page A1 story yesterday incorrectly gave his first name as Jeff.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at corrections@starbulletin.com.


LIHUE » Thomas Huemmer and Tamara Zytkowski, who were killed in a helicopter crash Friday on Kauai, were planning to get married.

"They had been looking at rings," said Huemmer's father, Frank Huemmer, of Brecksville, Ohio. "I think they were planning to announce their engagement in December."

According to friends and relatives, the pair from Avon, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, was among the four passengers along with the pilot killed Friday when a Bali Hai tour helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain northeast of Port Allen Airport.

The bodies of two more victims were recovered yesterday by a Kauai Fire Department rescue crew lowered to the site by an Army Black Hawk helicopter from Schofield Barracks.

Two bodies were recovered Monday.

The body of the fifth victim remains trapped beneath the fuselage. It won't be recovered until Bali Hai hires a salvage helicopter that can lift the wreckage.

"We've recovered all that we can recover," said Capt. Colin Wilson of the rescue squad.

Wilson said there was no way to lift the wreckage yesterday. And attempts to dig under it might send it sliding toward a sheer cliff only 10 feet away.

Wilson said the Kauai Fire Department had never before worked with the Army's Military Assistance to Traffic and Safety crews from the 68th Medical Company, but it wouldn't be the last time. Compared to the small Hughes 500 the rescue crew usually uses, the Black Hawk was "unbelievably stable," Wilson said.

High winds that tossed the smaller helicopter all over the sky caused the Fire Department to abandon its efforts early Sunday afternoon and request help from the Army. "We dropped 1,000 feet in a matter of seconds at one point," Wilson said.

"This (the wreck site) is the worst area on the island."

Contrary to reports Monday night that one body was unaccounted for, the Army crew had spotted it as the helicopter was departing.

Yesterday, the Black Hawk winched down three Kauai rescue crewmen -- Solomon Kanoho, Jeff Stokesbary and Jeff Weiss -- who recovered the bodies in about two hours. Wilson said the deep mud that had covered the cliff on Monday dried considerably by yesterday.

The trio still had to contend with a steep slope and thick foliage. They were tied off with safety lines through the entire operation, he said.

Bali Hai Helicopters has failed to answer telephone calls since Friday. Yesterday it issued its first statement expressing its sorrow for the victims and gratitude to the rescue workers. No mention was made of the company's pilot.

Autopsies of the victims began Monday and continued yesterday. Kauai County officials refused to release the names of any of the victims until they are positively identified.

In a telephone interview, Frank Huemmer said: "Tom is an all-around high quality kid. He's very even tempered, very logical.

"You watch them playing baseball and basketball in high school and college and they finally get to the point where they really want to settle down and -- well, it's a tough blow," Huemmer said.

Huemmer and his wife have an older son, Frank Jr., 38, who he said is a real estate expert for a large financial group in Boston.

Huemmer said he does not know Zytkowski's parents -- who were on the same trip to Kauai with another daughter -- but that they have talked several times over the past few days.

"We really don't know them, but they're wonderful people. In one sense, they are in a worse situation. It's going to be a long, hard flight home for them," he said.

Zytkowski was a registered nurse and a supervisor at Cleveland Clinic, a major health care provider in Ohio.

"Tammy was an energetic, enthusiastic and caring nurse," her supervisor, Dr. Brian Parker, said in a statement yesterday. "As a nurse manager, her style was to dive right in and take care of patients whenever necessary. Tammy was an extremely reliable person with whom people were comfortable seeking both professional and personal advice."



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