Helicopter crashes into Pearl Harbor, 1 critically hurt

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- A private helicopter with five people on board crashed Thursday into Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, leaving a teenage passenger in critical condition, officials said.

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The Bell 206 aircraft made a hard landing and sank near the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center, a popular tourist destination on Oahu, U.S. Navy spokeswoman Agnes Tauyan said.

The names of the five people on board were not immediately released.

"We are told bystanders jumped in to help rescue these patients from the water," said Shayne Enright, spokeswoman for Honolulu Emergency Services Department.

Amber Moncrieff, a tourist from Australia, says she was visiting Pearl Harbor when she heard a couple of loud bangs and realized a helicopter had crashed into the water.

"Boats just seemed to come from everywhere," she said. "So that happened very fast."

Local author Allan Seiden was signing books at the visitor centre when someone told him a helicopter crashed. He rushed over to where people were gathered, but by then the helicopter wasn't visible.

"I think it sunk instantly," he said.

Seiden watched as the helicopter's occupants-- including a man in a neck brace-- were carried away on stretchers.

"People were very calm. ... You could tell everyone was very shocked," he said.

Federal records show the helicopter is registered to Jeffrey Gebhard of Kailua, Hawaii. He couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The Navy said in a statement that the helicopter reportedly belongs to Genesis Aviation. The company website says it conducts helicopter tours of Oahu.

Honolulu paramedics treated the 16-year-old passenger and took him to a hospital in critical condition, Enright said.

A 45-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man were taken to the hospital in stable condition. Details on the two other people on board, including the pilot, weren't immediately available.

Operations at the visitor centre, including visits to the nearby USS Arizona Memorial, were suspended until further notice, the Navy said. The memorial honours the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on the ship in the Dec. 7, 1941, attack by Japan.

Federal Aviation Administration investigators were on their way to the crash site. A National Transportation Safety Board investigator was expected to arrive Friday.

It was the second major crash this year involving helicopters on Oahu.

Twelve Hawaii-based Marines were killed when two helicopters military crashed during nighttime training on Jan. 14. Both aircraft were CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters that were part of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463.



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