Maui News

Engine Recovered From 2017 Moloka‘i Helicopter Crash

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The National Transportation Safety Board issued a new report on what may have contributed to a deadly helicopter crash off Molokaʻi nearly two years ago.

The crash on Oct. 16, 2017, claimed the lives of the 25-year-old flight instructor, Oliver Kirsch, and Jeremy Dossetter, a 27-year-old commercial pilot who was receiving flight instruction. A Coast Guard search was called off three days later and both men were presumed dead.

The Honolulu International Airport control tower had lost communications with the Robinson R44 helicopter about six miles northwest of Molokaʻi Airport.  The helicopter was being operated by Hawaiʻi Pacific Aviation, doing business as Mauna Loa Helicopters and the flight originated from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.


A private company hired to locate the helicopter located the wreckage in October 2018, submerged about two miles offshore of Molokaʻi in about 300 feet of water. Portions of the wreckage were recovered in January of this year, including the helicopter’s engine and airframe components.

According to the NTSB, an examination of the engine found “no evidence of any mechanical damage or heat distress.”

The NTSB report notes that strong and gusty northeast winds were in the forecast and temporary moderate turbulence was  Weather data showed that Airman’s Meteorological Information called for “tango” conditions of temporary moderate turbulence.


According to the NTSB, radar imagery shortly before the incident depicts moderate-to-heavy values of reflectivity within the vicinity.  The exact cause of the crash was is unclear, but the report noted: “Rain showers and convective clouds produce outflow boundaries and gust fronts throughout their life cycle. An outflow boundary or gust front can create an environment favorable for unexpected changes in wind direction and speed.”

A final report detailing probable cause has not yet been compiled.

Previous Maui Now coverage of this incident:

Sectional map of the accident area with the location of the accident site and surface observation site. PC: NTSB.

The black line shows the helicopter’s flight path. The aviation section of the NWS Area Forecast Discussion noted that the trade winds would bring strong gusty northeast winds. PC: National Weather Service, Weather Surveillance Radar via NTSB.

Recovered engine. PC: NTSB.

Recovered Wreckage Debris. PC: NTSB

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