Authorities have identified the pilot and two of the passengers who died in a Thursday night helicopter crash in Hawaii that is believed to have killed all seven people on board.
Kauai police say preliminary reports indicate Paul Matero, 69 of Hawaii, piloted the helicopter. Two Wisconsin residents — Amy Gannon, 47, and Jocelyn Gannon, 13 — were among the six passengers.
The names of four other passengers, believed to be a family from Switzerland, have not been released. Autopsies to confirm victims’ identities have not yet been conducted, police say.
Six people’s remains were found at the site of the crash Friday, but bad weather forced the search teams to suspend recovery efforts until dawn on Saturday, the Kauai police department said in a statement. Recovery efforts resumed Saturday, a later statement said.
There were no indications that any of the seven passengers survived the crash on Kauai, Fire Battalion Chief Solomon Kanoho told reporters. Earlier, authorities said two of the touring passengers were believed to be minors.
“We are heartbroken by this tragedy, and we continue to ask the public to consider the sensitive nature of this devastating situation,” said Mayor Derek S. K. Kawakami. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of all victims during this extremely difficult time.”
The helicopter went down as it was set to tour the island’s dramatic Na Pali Coast. Kauai, also known as “the Garden Island,” was featured in the movie “Jurassic Park.”
The helicopter company, identified as Safari Helicopters, notified the U.S. Coast Guard after the chopper failed to return at its scheduled time early Thursday evening.
Authorities did not receive any signals from the helicopter’s emergency electronic locator transmitter.
According to a preliminary report, the pilot said the tour was leaving the Waimea Canyon area, known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” about 4:40 p.m., which was the last contact with the helicopter, Kauai police said.
Authorities said the wreckage was found in a remote, inland part of Kokee, the sprawling, 7-square mile state park on the island’s western side.
Kanoho said he could not confirm that weather may have been a factor in the crash, but noted weather can change quickly along the coast from clear skies in the morning to fog in the afternoon.
Three people from the National Transportation Security Board were expected to arrive Saturday to investigate the crash.
The crash is one of several recent accidents in the state, leading a congressman to call the trips unsafe and saying they lack proper oversight.
U.S. Rep. Ed Case of Hawaii blamed the Federal Aviation Administration for not taking National Transportation Safety Board safety improvement efforts seriously and the industry for not regulating itself.
“Tour helicopter and small aircraft operations are not safe, and innocent lives are paying the price,” said Case, a Democrat. “In our Hawaii alone, the industry … has in fact ignored any sensible safety improvements, instead dramatically increasing in recent years its volume of flights.”
The FAA, however, said it conducts regular surveillance on all Hawaii air tour operators and ensures companies address any issues, agency spokesman Ian Gregor said in an email. He said the FAA does not have concerns about the industry statewide.
Contributing: Associated Press