Maui News

Firefighters Continue Search for Missing Helicopter Off Moloka‘i

October 18, 2017, 7:52 AM HST
* Updated October 18, 10:50 PM
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Mo‘omomi Beach, Ho‘olehua, Moloka‘i. Wikipedia photo.

Wednesday, Oct. 18 Update:

Maui fire crews continued the search for a missing helicopter on Wednesday, Oct. 18, off the coast of Moloka‘i.

Maui Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto said going into the second day, Maui Fire Department crews on Moloka‘i continued the search by air and land for the Robinson R44 helicopter that is believed to have gone down off of Molokai’s northwest coast Monday night.

He said search crews did not find any items or debris from the missing helicopter on Wednesday.

Chief Taomoto said shoreline searches by ground crews proved challenging in the Ilio Point area. In most spots, high sea cliffs make it too dangerous for crews to reach the shoreline on foot so firefighters are relying heavily on the fire department’s Air-1 helicopter to thoroughly comb the near-shore areas for any signs of aircraft debris.

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Two private helicopters also assisted ground crews Wednesday and were used to methodically cover shoreline areas where ground crews are not able to reach.

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Fire crews will continue the search again on Thursday.

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Maui Fire Department crews on Moloka‘i assisted the U.S. Coast Guard in the search on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, for a missing Robinson R44 helicopter with two adult males on board.

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The aircraft reportedly dropped off of radar in the vicinity of Ilio Point on the northwest tip of Moloka‘i at around 7:30 p.m. Monday night.

Ho‘olehua firefighters learned of the missing aircraft at around 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning and responded to the Mo‘omomi Beach area to begin a shoreline search for the aircraft.

MFD deployed its Air-1 rescue helicopter to the scene and conducted an aerial search of nearshore waters from Mo‘omomi Beach to Ilio Point for any signs of the two men or the helicopter.

At 8:25 a.m., Air-1 spotted an uninflated yellow life vest floating on the water about 100 yards from shore and a mile east of Ilio Point.

Crews retrieved the vest and turned it over to Maui Police, who sent photos to Coast Guard Sector Honolulu for proper identification.

No other items or debris was found that could have originated from the missing aircraft.

Firefighters on the ground Tuesday afternoon focused their search efforts to the shoreline areas around Ilio Point where the life vest was retrieved.

Air-1 searched nearshore areas to the east and west of Ilio Point, and around towards the south
of the point with no signs of the men or the aircraft wreckage.

At about 7 a.m., as Ho‘olehua crews were about to leave on the search, a Ho‘olehua, Moloka‘i, man walked into the fire station and told them he was fishing Monday night near Mo‘omomi Beach and witnessed the aircraft go down.

He reported seeing a red beacon of an aircraft descend rapidly to the ocean and then disappear, far off in the distance towards Ilio Point.

About two to five minutes later, a Navy-type helicopter suddenly appeared and hovered over the area where he lost sight of the red beacon.

He figured an aircraft went down after he saw multiple aircraft crisscrossing the skies during the night.

When the man drove out this morning, he learned of the missing aircraft and stopped at the fire station to report what he had seen.

Fire crews resumed the search Wednesday morning after coordinating search efforts with Coast Guard representatives that arrived on Moloka‘i Tuesday afternoon.

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