A helicopter piloted by prominent Hawaii attorney Gary Galiher crashed on Molokai, killing him and a female passenger, authorities said this afternoon.
Maui Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto said the wreckage was spotted at 1:31 p.m. and rescue crews confirmed an hour later that there were no survivors. He said the wreckage was located about 1.3 miles mauka of 793 Kamehameha V Highway, about a half-mile north of Galiher’s property, on a remote slope thick with foliage and inaccessible by foot.
Maui police are coordinating recovery of the victims and the preservation of the scene for federal investigators, Taomoto said. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash, FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer said.
Galiher, described by colleagues as an experienced helicopter pilot with a second home on Molokai, and his passenger departed Honolulu Tuesday evening in a Hughes 369D helicopter and was expected to land on a private landing strip, authorities said.
Galiher, 70, was the founder and senior partner of Galiher DeRobertis Waxman, and is known nationally for representing clients in mesothelioma cases over 35 years. Mesothelioma is an asbestos-related form of cancer.
One of Galiher’s employees called 911 about 6:55 a.m. after no one could get a hold of him this morning, and the search by MFD and the U.S. Coast Guard began, authorities said.
The aircraft was scheduled to land at a private helipad at a residence on the eastern side of Molokai Tuesday night, authorities said.
The Coast Guard deployed its C-130 plane, HH-65 helicopter and 87-foot cutter Kittiwake, while MFD launched its Air 1 helicopter.
Coast Guard officials confirmed that a female passenger was aboard the helicopter, along with the pilot.
“My understanding is that’s it’s a friend of his, but I don’t know,” Ilana Waxman, managing partner at Galiher’s law firm, told the Associated Press.
“He was an incredible person and an incredible lawyer,” she said, calling Galiher’s death a tragic loss for the Honolulu legal community. She said he was “an extremely experienced pilot” who had a Molokai home for decades.
“That is the one very small silver-lining is he was doing what he loved, and he was where he loved to be. But that’s a small comfort, I have to say,” Waxman said. She said he made the interisland trip often.
According to the law firm’s website, Galiher has “represented mesothelioma clients and assisted with their cases in over 40 states and several foreign countries, recovering hundreds of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements.”
A graduate of the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Galiher started his law firm in 1977, according to the firm’s website.
Molokai was a special place for Galiher, Waxman said, recalling how he told her that he helped pay for law school by diving for black coral off the island. “When he had some money from the success of his law firm, that’s what he wanted— not a house on the beach in Kahala,” she said. “He wanted a place on Molokai.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.