Man honored for helping victims in Downtown Honolulu helicopter crash

Kent Thompson

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A Honolulu man was awarded the Civilian Merit of Honor on Wednesday for his heroic acts when a helicopter crashed in the middle of Downtown Honolulu.

Kent Thompson and his wife Anna were about to enjoy an afternoon of shopping on May 8, when their plans quickly changed.

“My wife and I had just gotten in the car and I just started the car and I heard the helicopter. It sounded weird, it sounded too loud,” Thompson said.

The source of the sound unveiled itself seconds later.

“Just looking out my windshield and right in front of me. Something I’ll never forget,” Thompson said.

A helicopter zoomed past his car and then slid across Fort Street. Thompson sped up in an effort to get closer.

“The blade started breaking apart. My wife told me, ‘Stop, stop, stop!'” Thompson said.

Without hesitation, Thompson rushed to the downed chopper, while his wife watched in awe and fear.

“I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God! He’s getting out of the car’ and ‘Oh my God! He’s crazy,'” Anna Thompson said. “Not go close by the helicopter because I’m thinking it my explode or something.”

“There was fuel leaking, there was hydraulic liquid leaking, but I just didn’t think about anything. I just thought about they have to get out,” Thompson said.

Thompson says the 30-year-old pilot, Julia Link, was not injured. Her 71-year-old passenger, Joe-Karl Hedberg, needed attention.

“So he was stuck in the cockpit. I broke open part of the cockpit, helped him out helped him to the sidewalk,” Thompson said.

Within minutes, emergency personnel were on the scene. Thompson says in the midst of the chaos, something caught his eye.

“Everything just happened so fast, but I remember I grabbed the photograph that he took I thought that was important for him. And come to find out that was the last photograph he took before they went down,” Thompson said.

It was a photo of their last stop.

“Punchbowl, Punchbowl,” Thompson said. “It’s amazing what that pilot did. To me, she threaded that needle coming down.”

Anna said her husband was just as amazing that day.

“I’m very proud of what he did. I’m glad he did it,” Anna Thompson said.

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