Finally a conclusion from the NTSB on our Hawaii Helicopter crash

In November, it will be three years since the tragic helicopter crash in Hawaii took the life of our client, Nicole Bevilacqua and her husband, Michael Abel. They were in Hawaii on their honeymoon and were taking a tour of the islands when the crash occurred.

Just this past week, the NTSB finally issued their “probable cause” determination which lists pilot error as the cause of the accident. It is rare for an NTSB investigation to last so long as this one, but there was a lot of information to analyze and a great deal of sophisticated laboratory examination of wreckage to be done. Another thing that contributed to the length of the investigation was the fact that the helicopter was manufactured by a French company, and any time there is a foreign manufacturer involved in an aviation accident, the investigation is a little more complicated.

The ultimate conclusion of the NTSB was that the pilot was flying in bad weather and lost control of the aircraft and hit the side of a mountain ridge. This was not surprising and was what we expected from the outset. Nevertheless the NTSB had to go through all of the necessary steps to reach its ultimate conclusion.

In almost any aviation case involving serious injury or death there is an NTSB investigator assigned to lead the inquiry into what happened. The scope of that investigation can vary tremendously. In simple accidents, it may be a single investigator who does all the work and issues a prompt report, whereas in a more complex accident such as our case, there can be multiple investigators and other technical people who are divided into various teams or “groups,” each one focusing on different aspects of the accident such was weather, operations, maintenance, structural integrity, etc. Every one of those groups produces a final report on their particular area of responsibility, and then it is ultimately the job of the Investigator in Charge (IIC) to pull all the information together and issue a Final Factual Report and Probable Cause Determination.

For the families of the Nicole and Mike, the pain of their loss lasts a lifetime, but the conclusion of the NTSB’s investigation is at least one more aspect of the tragedy that can be brought to a close.