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Investigators begin Molokai helicopter crash probeInvestigator arriving in Hawaii to probe cause of helicopter crash on Molokai island
HONOLULU (AP) ' A National Transportation Board Safety investigator was to arrive in Hawaii on Friday to begin probing why a tour helicopter slammed into a ridge on Molokai island, killing the pilot and four tourists on board.
The investigation will begin immediately, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer. A preliminary report typically would come within a week or two, but it could be months before the probable cause of the crash is determined.
The Blue Hawaiian Helicopters flight was on a 45-minute aerial tour of west Maui and Molokai when it crashed around midday Thursday.
The Eurocopter EC-130 was engulfed in flames after crashing about a quarter-mile from an elementary school. School officials saw the helicopter hit the hillside above campus and heard a loud boom. The school's principal said it was cloudy at the time of the crash, and it had just been raining hard.
Firefighters initially recovered four bodies, and the fifth was located under the wreckage. The Maui Visitors Bureau was helping families of the victims.
Maui County identified the pilot as Nathan Cline. Condolences for the 30-year-old poured in on Blue Hawaiian's Facebook page.
"Nathan had a wonderfully quirky sense of humor, gave a memorable tour of the islands, and was an all-around great guy," wrote Rafael Perrino, who flew with Cline on the West Maui-Molokai tour in August. "My heart goes out to Nathan's family, the families of lost passengers, and the Blue Hawaiian Helicopters team."
Kristin Zukis Gray said she was on the same tour two months ago and called Cline "a great, sweet, nice kid."
"May he rest in peace. And take solace in the fact that he died doing something that he truly loved ' you could tell the second you stepped on board and put on your headphones how much he enjoyed what he did," she wrote.
Authorities have not yet released the identities of the passengers, who authorities said were from Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada. Two were newlyweds.
Initial indications were that none of the passengers was involved with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting being held in Honolulu this week.
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters owner David Chevalier said the helicopter that crashed was less than a year old and was being leased from Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC.
Blue Hawaiian conducts 160,000 tours each year on all of the Hawaiian islands.
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.
The mostly rural island of about 7,000 people is between Maui and Oahu, where world leaders have gathered for the APEC summit in Honolulu.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Sinco Kelleher contributed to this report.
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