News / USA

    Eyewitness: Helicopter Fell From Sky Into Pearl Harbor

    A screengrab from YouTube video showns a Bell 206 helicopter as it goes down in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Feb. 18, 2016. (Video courtesy - Shawn Winrich)
    A screengrab from YouTube video showns a Bell 206 helicopter as it goes down in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Feb. 18, 2016. (Video courtesy - Shawn Winrich)
    Associated Press

    Shawn Winrich, visiting Hawaii from Madison, Wisconsin, was taking photos of Pearl Harbor when he saw a helicopter “essentially coming straight at us” at a popular tourist destination that attracts thousands of visitors daily.

    He switched to video, recording as the helicopter appeared to lose altitude and get closer to the water. “I thought it would be great video, whatever it is, and all of a sudden it essentially just fell out of the sky and crash-landed in the water,” he said.
     
    He stopped filming and jumped in to help.
     
    The heads of three adults popped up, and then a fourth surfaced. He heard people saying a fifth occupant was trapped.

    The Bell 206 aircraft made a hard landing and sank near the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center Thursday morning, U.S. Navy spokeswoman Agnes Tauyan said.


    Video - courtesy Shawn Winrich

    The names of the five people on board were not immediately released.
     
    “We are told bystanders jumped in to help rescue these patients from the water,” said Shayne Enright, spokeswoman for Honolulu Emergency Services Department.
     
    One of them was Chris Gardner, a tour guide with Keawe Adventures who was with a group of tourists at the visitor center when he heard the crash.
     
    “I took off my shirt and dove in,” he said, describing how he, a Navy sailor, a federal police officer and another man took turns diving to the submerged helicopter and trying to free a passenger with a knife. “He was strapped into his seat in the back of the aircraft.”
     
    They eventually freed the teenage passenger.
     
    The helicopter crashed about 20 feet offshore, right next to the visitor center's lawn, said Winrich's daughter, Justice Winrich.  She watched as it “plopped down” into the water.
     
    “I saw it like as it was coming in, and it looked pretty normal. It didn't look like it was shaking or anything,” Winrich said. “It just started like getting really close this way and started going down.” She thought it was strange that the helicopter was that close to people.
     
    As it got closer to the water, she saw some dark some coming out of the back of the helicopter, and it started shaking slightly.
     
    Winrich saw three people get out of the helicopter immediately and start swimming to shore.
     
    “I was like, oh my God, I can't believe this just happened. It was crazy,'' she said. ``You go on vacation and you never think you're going to see something like that.”
     
    Her father's footage shows the helicopter heading toward the water and then crashing down. The blades stop spinning as it turns over in the water.
     
    Local author Allan Seiden was signing books at the visitor center when someone told him a helicopter crashed. He rushed over to where people were gathered, but by then the helicopter wasn't visible.
     
    “I think it sunk instantly,” he said.
     
    Seiden watched as the helicopter's occupants - including a man in a neck brace - were carried away on stretchers. “People were very calm.... You could tell everyone was very shocked,” he said.
     
    Federal records show the helicopter is registered to Jeffrey Gebhard of Kailua, Hawaii. He couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
     
    The Navy said in a statement that the helicopter reportedly belongs to Genesis Aviation. A website for Genesis Helicopters says it conducts helicopter tours over Oahu and that Gebhard started Genesis in 1999.
     
    Honolulu paramedics treated the 16-year-old passenger and took him to a hospital in critical condition, Enright said.
     
    “It was a team effort and we pray that he's OK,” Gardner said of the teen he helped free from the helicopter.
     
    “It's part of the instinct growing up in Hawaii,” he said of jumping in to help. Hour after the crash, his eyes were still burning from the fuel in the water, he said.  
     
    A 45-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man were taken to the hospital in stable condition. Details on the two other people on board, including the pilot, weren't immediately available.
     
    Operations at the visitor center, including visits to the nearby USS Arizona Memorial, were suspended, the Navy said.  The memorial honors the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on the ship in the December 7, 1941, attack by Japan.
     
    Partial operations at the visitor center will resume Friday, the National Park Service said. The theater and boat trips to the Arizona Memorial were suspended. The visitor center grounds, museums, snack shop and bookstore will be open.
     
    Federal Aviation Administration investigators were on their way to the crash site. A National Transportation Safety Board investigator was expected to arrive Friday.

    It was the second major crash this year involving helicopters on Oahu.
     
    Twelve Hawaii-based Marines were killed when two military helicopters crashed during nighttime training on January 14. Both aircraft were CH-53E Sea Stallion helicopters that were part of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463.

    You May Like

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora