The National Transportation Safety Board reported on Friday that the helicopter crash on Molokai that took five lives in November of 2011 was caused by pilot error.
According the published NTSB determination, the pilot for Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, Nathan Cline, failed to maintain clearance from mountains during inclement weather. Cline, a Canadian couple and newlyweds from Pittsburgh died when the sightseeing helicopter crashed sideways into mountains above Kilohana Elementary School and burned.
“The pilot’s failure to maintain clearance from mountainous terrain while operating in marginal weather conditions, which resulted in the impact of the horizontal stabilizer and lower forward portion of the fenestron (tail rotor) with ground and/or vegetation and led to the separation of the fenestron and the pilot’s subsequent inability to maintain control,” the report concluded to be the crash’s probable cause. “Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s decision to operate into an area surrounded by rising terrain, low and possibly descending cloud bases, rain showers and high wind.”
Cline’s widow, Violeta Escobar, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii last year against manufacturer European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. Escobar claims in the lawsuit that the companies should have known of manufacturing defects that could cause the structure and components of the Eurocopter EC-130 to fail without warning. But the lawsuit doesn’t specify what was defective about the helicopter or the way it was built.
It is uncertain how the findings in the NTSB report will affect Escobar’s lawsuit. Another lawsuit filed by the family of a passenger against Blue Hawaiian was settled in March for an undisclosed amount, the Maui News reported.
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters says the company is studying the report’s findings to improve processes and procedures.