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Hawaii tourist takes control of chopper after pilot loses consciousness

Written by editor

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report today on a helicopter crash that happened in Hawaii in October during a scenic tour of Oahu.

A 57-year-old pilot lost consciousness and slumped over, and a passenger grabbed the controls and tried to slow the helicopter’s descent as it was headed to crash on a sand bar in Kaneohe Bay.

According to the report, the pilot “felt himself lose consciousness” around 20 minutes into the flight, but then soon regained consciousness and took control of the chopper again. He then turned the helicopter to head for the coast to prepare for a precautionary landing but lost consciousness again. He did not regain consciousness until emergency responders were working on him.

The Robinson R44 helicopter, operated by Novictor Aviation, crashed in 2 feet of water on a sandbar and ending up on its side. There was significant damage to the main rotor, skids, and tail boom.

Carli McConaughy, 35, was the passenger that grabbed the controls of the helicopter as it began to nosedive towards the ocean. Her fiancé, Adam Barnett, 31, is the one who pulled her and the pilot out of the chopper after it crashed.

All three were taken to Queen’s Medical Center in serious condition and later upgraded to stable condition. McConaughy suffered fractures to a foot, a laceration to the other foot, and a compression fracture in her back. Barnett sustained a broken arm and wrist injury.

The helicopter was on a 45-minute tour of the island with a newly-engaged couple onboard from Joliet, Illinois.

Owner and chief pilot of Novictor, Nicole Vandelaar, stated that the pilot suffered a medical condition while in flight. The pilot began working for the aviation company in May and had not experienced any previous medical problems.

The NTSB report stated: “The pilot remembers being in a dream-like state during his loss of consciousness, and in the dream-like state, he was piloting the helicopter and knew that he was in an emergency situation.”

A final report will not be complete for another 12 to 18 months to complete, according to NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway.