An important rescue tool is missing in action. Both of the Honolulu Fire Department’s helicopters are out of commission.
KHON started asking questions after noticing that the Honolulu Police Department’s helicopter was being used to help rescue an injured hiker near the Makapuu tide pools Saturday afternoon.
The call came in at 11:58 a.m.
Around 12:15 p.m., Ocean Safety responded to a 24-year-old male who fell approximately 30-40 feet halfway between Pele Chair and the Makapuu tide pools. Ocean Safety stabilized and treated the patient and HFD co-responded and airlifted him out to paramedics who were staged at Sandy Beach.
EMS took over treatment and transported the hike to the trauma center with serious injuries.
The hiker is expected to recover.
As for the fire department’s helicopters, KHON found out the helicopters have been grounded for nearly two months, since April 1.
HFD wouldn’t tell KHON why exactly, but we kept digging and found out some big money is going into fixing them.
Saturday’s rescue wasn’t the first time the police department’s helicopter was called in to help in place of HFD’s helicopters.
On April 17, HFD also borrowed HPD’s helicopter for a mountain rescue.
KHON had a lot of questions for HFD and reached out for an on-camera interview, but they declined, saying they needed to look further into the matter.
However, they did tell me that both helicopters are not broken, and are undergoing maintenance.
They wouldn’t tell me what the maintenance was, but KHON did find out that HFD recently asked the City for over half a million for emergency helicopter repairs.
It was granted, but Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi says HFD did not tell the city council both helicopters were down.
“I suggested they buy a new helicopter,” said Councilwoman Kobayashi. “Isn’t that cheaper? And then you have all new parts? But for some reason, they aren’t buying a new helicopter.”
Councilman Brandon Elefante says it will cost $3 million to buy a new helicopter, which is what the city council is willing to give.
“Obviously a big portion of operations is for search and rescue,” said Councilman Elefante. “It’s important for their operations. It’s important we give them these resources.”
But Kobayashi says HFD declined.
“They didn’t need it,” said Kobayashi. “Or they felt it was better to redo the helicopter. But now two are down. We’ve been having so many fires.”
KHON asked, if HFD is borrowing HPD’s helicopter, what will they use? Is it outfitted for fighting fires?
HFD told KHON that the police department’s helicopter is capable of doing the same exact operations as HFD’s helicopter.
As for city council’s offer of funding a new helicopter, HFD said they want as many tools as possible for the job, but are considering “other factors.”
Again, they did not tell us what those “other factors” are exactly.
With HFD using the police department’s helicopter, HPD is left with one helicopter for police use.
KHON plans on following up with HFD to get answers and find out when their helicopters will be up again.