Report: Hawaii chopper pilot initially eyed landing on grass

AP News
Posted: Feb 24, 2016 6:07 PM
Report: Hawaii chopper pilot initially eyed landing on grass

HONOLULU (AP) — The pilot of a tour helicopter that crashed in Pearl Harbor last week felt a vibration then heard a grinding noise and a loud bang before heading toward a grassy area to attempt a landing, federal regulators said Wednesday in a preliminary report on the incident.

However, he quickly noticed there were people on the lawn at the Pearl Harbor visitors center and instead tried to land close to shore, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

Video of the Feb. 18 crash taken by a tourist shows the Bell 206 helicopter then slamming into the water about 20 feet from shore and sinking.

The pilot also flies Black Hawk helicopters in the Hawaii Army National Guard.

Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Charles Anthony on Wednesday confirmed the pilot's name is Ryan Rohner, a chief warrant officer two. Anthony said Rohner joined the Hawaii National Guard in 1999.

The crash killed Riley Dobson of Guelph, Ontario, a 16-year-old passenger who was on board the helicopter with his family.

Witnesses said he was trapped underwater and had to be cut free from his seat. He died Monday.

Dobson was well known in Ontario's equestrian show-jumping community.

Two other passengers and the pilot were seriously injured. One passenger suffered minor injuries.

Federal records show the helicopter is registered to Jeffrey Gebhard of Kailua, Hawaii. The Navy said the helicopter reportedly belongs to Genesis Aviation. The website for Genesis Helicopters says it was founded by Gebhard and conducts tours over Oahu.

No one answered the phone Wednesday at a number listed for Gebhard. A man who answered the line last week declined comment, citing the investigation.

The NTSB report said the helicopter took off from Honolulu International Airport at 9:35 a.m. and crashed less than an hour later.

Civilian divers floated the helicopter to the surface Friday, and a crane pulled it out of the water. All major structural components of the helicopter were recovered.