Hawaii: Mike and Nicole Abel among 5 people who died after a tour helicopter crashed on Molokai island
Five people, a pilot and four tourists, died after a tour helicopter crashed into a mountain ridge on Molokai island, Hawaii.
According to authorities, the helicopter carrying the five people was on a tourist excursion of West Maui and Molokai when it went down near an elementary school Thursday.
Newlyweds Mike and Nicole Abel from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, were among those killed, WTAE.com reports.
The father of Nicole Abel, formerly Nicole Bevilacqua, reportedly told Hawaii News that his daughter was killed in the crash.
Hawaii News added that her husband, Mike Abel, was also killed.
On his Facebook page, design engineer Mike Abel had just updated his status to Married to Nicole Bevilacqua.
Mike and Nicole Abel, from Westmoreland County, got married on Saturday and both worked for electronics company Westinghouse.
The couple worked at the company’s headquarters in Cranberry.
Westinghouse spokesman Vaughn Gilbert said:
“It’s a tragedy. Everyone within the Westinghouse community is heartbroken, and our hearts go out to their family.
“These were two very fine young people who just started their lives.”
Cranberry.patch.com reports that Nicole Abel’s father, Bruce Bevilacqua, of Murrysville, is a long-time Westinghouse executive.
Bruce Bevilacqua was named vice president of the company’s Americas region in April.
Company officials and employees learned of the newlyweds’ deaths earlier Friday.
Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said that firefighters recovered four bodies and the fifth was located under the wreckage.
Maui County identified the pilot as Nathan Cline, 30.
The other two tourists are a man and a woman from Ontario; their relationship is unknown.
The helicopter crash occurred about a quarter mile from Kilohana Elementary School, prompting teachers to keep the 71 students inside, Principal Richard Stevens said.
“We didn’t go on lockdown,” Richard Stevens said.
“The kids were never in any immediate danger.”
Maui police official Wayne K. Ibarra also confirmed the five deaths, the Associated Press reports.
There was no word on the cause of the crash but Wayne K. Ibarra said the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating.
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters owner David Chevalier said the passengers were two men and two women taking a 45-minute tour that departed from Kahului, on Maui.
He declined to release the pilot’s name because his wife had not yet been notified.
“We’re extremely grieved for our pilot as well as the passengers,” David Chevalier said.
“Something like this can’t be more devastating to us.”
The EC-130 chopper that crashed was less than a year old and was being leased from Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC, David Chevalier said.
Molokai is a mostly rural island of about 7,000 people between Maui and Oahu, where world leaders have gathered this week for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu.
Helicopter tour companies advertise trips to Molokai to see the island’s sea cliffs and Hawaii’s tallest waterfall.
The remote Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokai is where Hawaii exiled leprosy patients between 1866 and 1969.
Tour helicopters have come under heavy scrutiny over their safety in recent years around the country, most recently after a deadly chopper crash in Manhattan last month.