Law enforcement officers have now recovered the remains of all five of the people who died in Thursday’s Molokai helicopter crash.
The remains are being transported to Maui this afternoon after recovery was made by Molokai patrol officers, Wailuku detectives and Maui Fire Department personnel, said Maui County Police Department spokesman Lt. Wayne K. Ibarra.
Detectives are currently in the process of making notification of next of kin. The identities of all five are being withheld by the county until positive identification is made, Ibarra said. Autopsies are being scheduled, he said.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are expected to arrive on Maui Saturday.
Two of the five people who died in a tour helicopter crash on Molokai Thursday were newlyweds who worked at the Westinghouse Electric Corp. in northwest Pennsylvania, a company spokesman confirmed.
Nicole Bevilacqua and Mike Abel were married before coming to Hawaii for their honeymoon, said Vaughn Gilbert, Westinghouse public relations and advertising manager. A wedding registry indicated they were married Nov. 5.
The two were engineers for the company’s nuclear services product line in Cranberry Township, Pa., Gilbert said today. "They were highly regarded by their colleagues, their co-workers and the company. Everyone within Westinghouse is saddened by this accident," Gilbert said.
Westinghouse’s Cranberry Township facility is its headquarters. It employs 4,300 people there, Gilbert said.
Maui County officials on Thursday identified the Blue Hawaiian Helicopters pilot in the crash as Nathan Cline, 30, a Kihei resident.
The names of the other two passengers, whom Maui County officials described as a man and a woman from Ontario, Canada, have not been released.
The helicopter was on a one-hour flight originating from Kahului when it crashed about 12:15 p.m. along a hillside in East Molokai overlooking Kilohana Elementary School. All five people aboard perished.
Maui detectives are assisting investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration in their survey of the crash site.
On Blue Hawaiian’s Facebook page this morning, several former passengers said Cline had been their pilot and they posted fond remembrances of their tours.
Mary Barnish Cerceo said Cline was the pilot when she and her husband, Vince, took a helicopter tour of Maui while on their honeymoon three weeks ago. "Yes Maui is breathtaking, but Nathan really made the tour wonderful. He was funny, kind, knowledgeable about the island. I am saddened to hear the news of his loss."
Ginny Dykes said Cline spoke of his wife when she was a passenger on a tour he piloted last month. "Nathan made our tour! His knowledge of the area, as well as his flying skills, and his wonderful sense of humor made it one of the highlights of our vacation. We are saddened to hear of this tragic accident, prayers to all of the families involved and to Nathan’s wife who he spoke of on our tour."
Kristin Zukis Gray, of Austin, Texas, called Cline "a great sweet, nice kid" who appeared to genuinely love his job. During a tour through West Maui and Molokai two months ago, she said, "You could tell the second you stepped onboard and put on your headphones how much he enjoyed what he did."
Maui County officials and witnesses said the crash occurred under dense cloud cover and strong winds. Witnesses at the school said they heard the helicopter "auto-rotate," an emergency maneuver, just before the crash about a quarter-mile behind the school.
Blue Hawaiian’s Kahului office was shuttered this afternoon. A company employee said it was "standing down and reviewing procedures."
It was not clear if Blue Hawaiian’s operations on Oahu, Hawaii Island and Kauai were operating.
An employee answering the phone at the company’s Oahu office referred calls to company co-owner Patricia Chevalier, who could not immediately be reached for comment.