The remains of six people who were on board a tourist helicopter when it crashed on a scenic Hawaiian island were recovered late on Friday, the authorities said.
A pilot and six passengers were aboard the helicopter tour of the island of Kauai, sometimes called the “Garden Island,” when it vanished mid-flight on Thursday. Much of the small island is lush, uninhabited tropical rainforest, and helicopter tours to see the stunning views are a popular attraction.
“We are heartbroken by this tragedy and we continue to ask the public to consider the sensitive nature of this devastating situation,” Derek S. K. Kawakami, mayor of Kauai, said in a statement.
Recovery efforts were suspended late on Friday because of inclement weather, and were set to resume at daybreak.
The Federal Aviation Administration said that the aircraft, a Eurocopter AS350 B2, was found about 13 miles north of Hanapepe, a small community on the southern side of the island. The aircraft had taken off from nearby Lihue Airport, said Jim Peters, an agency spokesman.
County officials said in a statement that the authorities were notified on Thursday at about 6 p.m. that a Safari Helicopter tour in the area had not returned. The helicopter, which was scheduled to land at 5:30 p.m., last made contact at about 4:40 p.m., when the pilot said the tour was leaving the Waimea Canyon area, the statement said.
Local officials and others from the Coast Guard, National Guard and Pacific Missile Range Facility started an intensive search on Thursday evening. The Navy, the Civil Air Patrol and private helicopters joined that effort on Friday.
Though the helicopter had an electronic locator, no signal had been received, the Coast Guard said in a statement.
Robert Cox, petty officer first class of the Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu, said the weather in the area was challenging. Because of clouds and rain, visibility was limited to four miles, and winds were at 28 miles per hour, the release said.
Safari Helicopter did not immediately return messages on Friday.
County officials said that grief counselors and employees of the local tourism bureau were helping the families of the victims, who were not immediately identified.
Deaths involving helicopters and planes in Hawaii are not uncommon. Three people were killed when a helicopter crashed on Oahu in April. Two months later, a skydiving plane crashed north of Honolulu, killing 11 people.
In August, Representative Ed Case, Democrat of Hawaii, introduced a measure that would impose stricter regulations on commercial air tour operations. His proposed legislation would prohibit tour flights over national wilderness areas and national parks, as well as require pilots to focus only on flying the aircraft — not on narrating tours.