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Cause of death released for boy in helicopter crash


    A crane truck on Feb. 19 hoisted the helicopter that crashed offshore from the Pearl Harbor visitor’s center the day before.

The Medical Examiner’s office said the cause of death of the 16-year-old Canadian boy, who died last week from injuries he sustained in the crash of a tour helicopter at Pearl Harbor, was a brain injury that he suffered while submerged.

Riley Dobson, of Ontario, Canada, died Feb. 22 at Pali Momi Medical Center where he was taken after he was rescued from the cockpit of a Bell 206B Jetranger helicopter that crashed Feb. 18.

Rescuers said they had to cut the seat belt strapping the boy into his seat before they could free him from the helicopter, which was in 40 feet of water.

The official cause of death was anoxic encephalopathy, or brain injury, due to drowning, the medical examiner’s office said. The manner of death was ruled accidental, according to the medical examiner.

Also hospitalized at Pali Momi were Dobson’s parents. Another family member was treated at an area hospital and released Feb. 18. All of the family members returned to Canada after the couple was released from the hospital Friday, the family’s attorney said.

Pilot Ryan Rohner was flying the aircraft owned by tour company Genesis Helicopters when it crashed with four passengers aboard at about 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 18, 20 feet from the USS Arizona Memorial visitors center.

Rohner, who has been a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot with the Hawaii Army National Guard since 1999, was hospitalized at Tripler Army Medical Center where he remained last week.

Rohner told a National Transportation Safety Board investigator that during a tour flight over Ford Island, he felt a vibration followed by a grinding noise.

“Shortly after, the pilot heard a loud bang, scanned the instrument panel and saw that the engine instruments indicated the engine was still running, however, rotor rpm decreasing,” the report said.

“The pilot initiated an auto rotation to a grassy area near Contemplation Circle at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. As the pilot neared his intended landing area, he observed multiple people within the area,” a preliminary NTSB report said last week.

”The pilot stated he initiated a left pedal turn, attempting to land close to the shoreline. Subsequently, the helicopter descended rapidly into the water, about 20 feet from the shoreline.”

Rohner, a chief warrant officer, is a pilot with Detachment C, 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, according to the Hawaii Army National Guard.

The wreckage was moved to a hangar at Honolulu Airport operated by Genesis Helicopters for the NTSB investigation.

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  • “Drowning is always fatal, but near-drowning may result in survival with no long-lasting effects; survival with permanent damage, usually to the brain; or death after a 24-hour survival period. Near drowning sets into motion a collection of reactions in the body that ultimately can damage the lungs and lead to an absence of oxygen in tissues, even when individuals have been removed from the water and begun breathing either on their own or with mechanical help.

    Near-drowning happens very quickly. Within three minutes of submersion, most people are unconscious, and within five minutes the brain begins to suffer from lack of oxygen. Abnormal heart rhythms (cardiac dysrhythmias) often occur in near-drowning cases, and the heart may stop pumping (cardiac arrest). The blood may increase in acidity (acidosis) and, under some circumstances, near drowning can cause a substantial increase or decrease in the volume of circulating blood. If not rapidly reversed, these events cause permanent damage to the brain.”

  • Condolences for the family. From watching the crash video the pilot did a good job avoiding landfall. The injuries to the occupants could have been much worse from such a hard landing on the ground. Good decision making on his part by also avoiding hitting the people on the ground.

  • This was a great example of best efforts even with a sad out come. Some times fate just shows up unexpectedly. It helps me remember what blessing life really is!! Kudos to Chris a good Samaritan doing his best in murky water.

  • Poor guy, i would be completely devastated if my son died like that or in any way. I feel for the parents. To me, it seems like these tourist ride attractions are high risk. Parasailing, jetskiing, scuba, helicopter tours are small businesses who may be cutting corners to increase their margins. And now some genius wants to do a zipline at the Hilton. Mark my words, tragedy is imminent. But I guess profit is priority #1 right?

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