Search Continues for Missing Tour Helicopter on Kauai

Kauai Island
Kauai Island

Published Dec 27, 2019 4:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard is establishing an incident command post on the island of Kauai, Honolulu, after a tour helicopter went missing on Thursday.

The helicopter has a pilot and six passengers, two believed to be children, on board.

Upon notification, just after 6 p.m. on Thursday, Coast Guard watchstanders at JRCC Honolulu initiated an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast, launched a Coast Guard Dolphin aircrew, contacted DoD for HSM-37 Seahawk support and launched the Coast Guard Cutter William Hart.

A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane crew and MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Barbers Point are conducting first light searches. A Coast Guard Station Kauai 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew will also join the search, along with the Coast Guard Cutter William Hart and the U.S. Navy Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 37 MH-60R Seahawk helicopter crew.

In addition to military support, Kauai Fire Department (KFD) is coordinating local efforts from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Kauai National Guard and commercial helicopter support. KFD was contacted and is coordinating ground searches of the shoreline. Barking Sands Security also organized ATV searches of the coastline. 

So far, there are no signs of the helicopter. It is equipped with an electronic locator, but no signals have been received.

Friday's forecast includes continued winds around 28 mph with wind waves at seven feet, a northwest swell of six feet and scattered rain showers. A small craft advisory is in effect for the waters around Kauai and northwest Oahu.

"The weather conditions are challenging. We have trained crews responding and on scene searching for any signs of the helicopter and those aboard," said Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Cox, Coast Guard Joint Rescue Command Center Honolulu.

Nearly 80 percent of Kauai is uninhabited, and much of that is a state park. Kauai's natural beauty is accessed or viewed daily by visitors aboard helicopters from several tour companies depending on the weather. Common points of interest include Jurassic Park Falls, the Hanapepe Valley, Waimea Canyon, the N? Pali Coast, the Hanalei Valley, and Mt. Waialeale.