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Tour helicopter crashes near Arizona Memorial

  • COURTESY HAWAII NEWS NOW
                                The Coast Guard said five people on board a helicopter that crashed near the USS Arizona Memorial were taken to shore and treated by paramedics today.

    COURTESY HAWAII NEWS NOW

    The Coast Guard said five people on board a helicopter that crashed near the USS Arizona Memorial were taken to shore and treated by paramedics today.

  • web1_Screen-Shot-2016-02-18-at-12.03.11-PM
  • The website for Genesis Aviation features the Hawaii News Now helicopter.

    The website for Genesis Aviation features the Hawaii News Now helicopter.

A tour helicopter plunged into the waters near the USS Arizona Memorial visitor center theater this morning, injuring the five people on board who were rushed to shore by rescue personnel and bystanders.

At least one person, a 16-year-old boy, was critically injured, city Emergency Medical Services reported. Paramedics took two others, a 50-year-old man and 45-year-old woman, to the hospital in stable condition, following the crash at about 10:30 a.m.

Two other people were taken to the hospital by federal firefighters. No information was immediately available on their conditions.

A video posted on YouTube showed the helicopter approaching the shoreline of the visitors center and crashing about 10 feet offshore.

Chris Gardner, a Keawe Adventures guide, said he heard an “auto-rotation — and not much of an engine sound of the rotors” shortly before the helicopter crashed into waters about 10 feet offshore and flipped upside down.

Gardner swam to the crash site in waters about 10 feet deep, and helped a federal police officer rescue an unconscious passenger from the helicopter.

“One guy was still stuck,” Gardner said. “So I jumped in and tried to extract him.”

Other passengers were in waters outside of the aircraft, clutching flotation devices, he said.

Gardner and the police officer took turns cutting a seat belt strapped to a young man until they were able to pull him from his starboard rear seat. “It was so murky under there,” Gardner said.

The first responders included Navy boats from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and federal firefighters, according to the Navy.

Amber Moncrieff, a tourist from Australia, said she was waiting in line for the 10:45 a.m. showing of the movie at the National Park’s visitor center theater, when she heard two loud bangs.

Another member of her group walked around the theater and saw that a helicopter had crashed.

“There were a lot of young men coming out of the water wet,” Moncrieff said.

She said they apparently had jumped into the water to help pull people to safety.

“The vision of the rescuers coming out,” stuck in her mind, Moncrieff said. “When something bad happens, so many people will come out and help.”

Moncrieff said she saw at least four people being taken away in stretchers. Paramedics were administering CPR to one victim, she said.

The National Parks Service and the Navy closed the USS Arizona Memorial Visitors Center shortly after the crash. The Visitors Center will be open Friday but the film that depicts events leading to the Pearl Harbor attacks and boat tours to the memorial are suspending because of the crash investigation, the Park Service said.

The Navy said the helicopter apparently belonged to Genesis Aviation. The company features the Hawaii News Now helicopter on its website.

It advertises “Doors Off” helicopter tours and the company’s web site features a prominent aerial photo of the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Missouri in Pearl Harbor.

A check of the tail number of the helicopter that crashed showed it is a 1979 Bell 206B helicopter, known as a Jet Ranger. According to FAA records, the Bell 206B is owned by Jeffrey Gebhard, of Kailua, who owns Genesis Aviation. The helicopter has a valid certificate that was issued in August.

It can carry four passengers and a pilot, according to the Genesis Aviation website.

Federal Aviation Administration investigators are en route and the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates aviation crashes, has been notified, said Lynn Lunsford, an FAA spokeswoman.

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Honolulu Star-Advertiser reporters Craig Gima, Dan Nakaso, Maureen O’Connell, William Cole and Gregg K. Kakesako contributed to this report.

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