Pilot confusion, bad weather possible factors in deadly Molokai chopper crash

gary-galiher

Pilot confusion and bad weather may have contributed to the helicopter crash that killed well-known attorney Gary Galiher.

That’s according to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board Wednesday.

The crash occurred on Nov. 15, at around 6:41 p.m., in mountainous terrain about a mile above Pukoo, killing Galiher and his passenger, realtor Keiko Kuroki.

A search began after Galiher was reported missing Wednesday morning.

“At the time of the accident, dark night, visual meteorological conditions prevailed with localized reports of low visibility with heavy rain showers. …

“During an interview with the NTSB IIC on November 18, two witnesses who live at a neighboring residence west of the accident site said that they saw N81GG on the evening of the accident at 1837 flying low and slow over their property with a bright landing light illuminating them. The witnesses each commented that it looked like the pilot was lost and searching the ground for something before the helicopter turned to the east, and it departed for the shoreline. …

“During a phone interview with the NTSB IIC on November 23, another witness who lives on the ridge to the east of the pilot’s property, said that she saw a helicopter with a bright ‘search light’ on the night of November 15 near her home. She said that she watched the helicopter make a ‘controlled descent under dark, windy and very rainy conditions’ down across the ridgeline north of her house, (which is about one quarter mile east of the pilot’s helipad,) then disappear behind the ridge. The witness stated that the weather was almost the worst that she had ever seen there, and she has been living at the residence part time for two years. …

“The National Weather Service radar data shows moderately heavy bands of rain passing from the north-east through the accident area at the approximate time of the accident. …

“Witnesses located in near Pukoo reported that weather conditions that were much worse than that being reported at the Molokai Airport, which included gusty wind conditions, heavy rain, and reduced visibility.”

Family members say Galiher was an avid pilot who had been flying since he was in his 20s. The route from Oahu to Molokai was a familiar one as he flew frequently to his property on Molokai.

View the report in its entirety here.

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