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‘Heard a pop.’ Kids on field trip see fatal helicopter crash at Navy missile range

A Sikorsky S-61N, belonging to British International Helicopter Services lands on aboard the U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG-69). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin L. Ailes/Released)

Children on a field trip to a Hawaii missile range were among onlookers who saw a fatal helicopter crash at the facility.

“We heard a pop,” Chloe Ayonon, 13, told Hawaii News Now. “We didn’t know what it was. Our tour guides had no clue. … And then they said that it was an aircraft.”

A civilian contractor helicopter operated by Croman Corporation crashed at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, killing four employees aboard, the U.S. Navy said in a news release.

The crash took place at 10 a.m. local time Tuesday, Feb. 22. The identities of the four killed have not been released.

Chloe told Hawaii News Now that her class was visiting a fire station at the base when they were told to leave as firefighters scrambled to respond to the crash.

“We walked outside and there was this big smoke cloud,” she said.

Onlooker Chris Turner told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the helicopter flew over his boat as he ferried tourists to the harbor.

“It just went down,” Turner told the publication, saying the helicopter made a sharp turn to the right and then dove straight down. “It was full speed. It was crazy.”

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will assist in the investigation.

Oregon-based Croman Corporation describes itself on its website as “one of the most experienced operators of Sikorsky S-61 helicopters in the world.”

The Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands is the “world’s largest instrumented, multi-environmental range,” according to its website.


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