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Crash in darkness alarms residents

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Some Kaneohe Bay residents, although used to the sounds of military maneuvers, were alarmed by the sound of a helicopter crashing in the darkness Tuesday night.

“I heard a helicopter really close,” said Jordan Jenkins, 25, who returned from serving as a soldier in Iraq three months ago. “We could hear the propellers speeding up, and it didn’t sound right, and then a crash.”

Jenkins, who grew up on Lulani Street with a view of the bay, said he and his brother ran outside.

“I heard a sound like a ‘boosh,’” he said. “It didn’t sound like an explosion. It sounded like it hit the water. I was waiting for an explosion.”

They watched as a plane with searchlights circled, then red flares popped off, a boat drove through the flares and shortly afterward other helicopters arrived.

“I saw a helicopter go really close to the water, and I guess they were extricating them,” Jenkins said.

The wreckage of the Marine CH-53 helicopter remained in the bay yesterday after crashing at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on the sandbar in Kaneohe Bay, killing one Marine and injuring three.

Neighbor Monique Higgins, 26, and her family were having dinner on their lanai.

“We thought they were training, then we heard the engine cut out,” she said. “It was pretty loud. We could hear the propeller slow down, ‘dooph, dooph.’”

Higgins’ son, Elijah, 6, couldn’t eat dinner or sleep after the crash.

“I was scared because I thought it was going to be a bomb crashing (into their house),” he said. “I see wars and stuff (on TV).”

Natalie Van Rensburg, 21, said: “It’s crazy that they landed on the sandbar rather than in the ocean or on houses.”

Reina Yett, 59, whose Kamehameha Highway house is probably one of the closest to the crash site, was preparing for dinner in the kitchen when she “heard what sounded like a clunking, and an engine sort of a noise and a big thunk, which sounded like an explosion.”

She ran out onto her deck and turned toward the Marine base, but couldn’t see anything in the total blackness.

But in the lights from responding helicopters, “I saw people standing on the top of the wreckage.”

“It was awful once we figured out what as going on,” she added.

The disaster could have been worse.

“Thank God there were no boats on the sandbar,” said Yett, adding that at least one boat usually occupies the popular party spot, even at night.

At the Heeia Kea Boat Harbor, Dan Bellieveau, captain of the Barefoot 1, said his tour boat did not get close to the area, which was closed off yesterday by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources during the investigation and wreckage recovery.

At least two tour boat companies canceled their voyages, a department spokeswoman said.

Tour guide Ryo Hatanaka of Captain Bruce’s said his company usually takes two tours a day of up to 80 people per tour for activities on the sandbar.

“No one could go,” he said.

DLNR will allow the companies to operate in another part of the bay today.

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