The National Transportation Safety Board has issued a preliminary report on the Pearl Harbor helicopter crash that killed 16-year-old Riley Dobson. Dobson was a high school student in Ontario, Canada.
In the report, the NTSB says that the pilot felt a vibration followed by a grinding noise. Shortly after, there was a loud bang.
The pilot said the instrument panel indicated the engine was still running, however, rotor rpm decreasing.
The pilot initiated an auto rotation to a grassy area near Contemplation Circle at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. According to aviation analyst Peter Forman, auto rotation allows wind to flow through a helicopter’s blades, creating enough power for the pilot to attempt to move the helicopter to a safe place.
The pilot saw a number of people in the area he was heading towards and initiated a left pedal turn, attempting to land close to the shoreline. The helicopter descended rapidly into the water, about 20 feet from the shoreline.
In an air traffic recording recording, the pilot tried to warn the controllers.
Pilot: Tower, Chopper 8, I think I’m going down.
Tower: Chopper 8, roger. Okay chopper, you said (inaudible) of Ford Island, right?
Tower: Okay Air 1, if you can check next to the Arizona Memorial, please.
Air 1: Arizona Memorial, on my way, ma’am.
Tower: Air 1, we have a report that he’s underwater.
Two family members remain in stable condition and continue to receive care at Pali Momi. Another family member was treated Thursday at an area hospital and released.
The pilot, Ryan Rohner, is a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot and warrant officer with the Hawaii Army National Guard. He has been with the guard since 1998.
The Bell 206B helicopter involved in the crash belonged to Genesis Helicopters. The company has been around since 1999.
According to NTSB records, neither the company nor the helicopter have been involved in any past accidents.
The helicopter can fit up to five people and specializes in “doors-off” tours, which claim to offer better viewing and photo opportunities.
According to Genesis Helicopter’s website, it offers two tours, one that goes around Oahu and a shorter tour that only covers the south shore. Both tours include flyovers over Pearl Harbor.
NTSB Identification: WPR16FA072
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, February 18, 2016 in Honolulu, HI
Aircraft: BELL 206B, registration: N80918
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 3 Serious, 1 Minor.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On February 18, 2016, about 1020 Hawaiian standard time, a Bell 206B, N80918, was substantially damaged when it impacted water during an emergency landing near Honolulu, Hawaii. The helicopter was registered to a private individual and operated by Genesis Helicopters under provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 as a local air tour flight. The commercial pilot and 2 passengers sustained serious injuries, 1 passenger sustained minor injuries, and 1 passenger was fatally injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a company flight plan was filed for the local flight. The flight originated from the Honolulu International Airport (HLN), Honolulu, about 0935.
The pilot reported to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge, that while in cruise flight over Ford Island, he felt a vibration followed by a grinding noise. Shortly after, the pilot heard a loud bang, scanned the instrument panel and saw that the engine instruments indicated the engine was still running, however, rotor rpm decreasing. The pilot initiated an auto rotation to a grassy area near Contemplation Circle at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. As the pilot neared his intended landing area, he observed multiple people within the area. The pilot stated he initiated a left pedal turn, attempting to land close to the shoreline. Subsequently, the helicopter descended rapidly into the water, about 20 feet from the shoreline.
Witnesses located at various locations at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument reported observing the helicopter near their location traveling at a low altitude before it suddenly descended into the water.
Examination of the accident site revealed that the helicopter was submerged in about 40 feet of water, about 20 feet from the shoreline. The helicopter was removed from the water the day following the accident and was subsequently rinsed with fresh water. All major structural components of the helicopter were recovered. The wreckage was moved to a secure location for further examination.