Share This Page

Report blames pilot for 2011 Hawaii crash that killed Pittsburgh couple

| Friday, July 25, 2014, 11:00 p.m.
Michael Abel and Nicole Bevilacqua Abel were two engineers with a bright future ahead.

KAUNAKAKAI, Hawaii — The likely cause of a Molokai helicopter crash that killed all five people aboard was the pilot flying too close to the mountains during inclement weather, the National Transportation Safety Board determined in a final report published Friday.

Pilot Nathan Cline, newlyweds Michael and Nicole Abel of Pittsburgh, and Canadian couple Stuart Robertson and Eva Birgitta Wannersjo of Toronto died when the Blue Hawaiian Helicopters Eurocopter EC-130 crashed into mountains above an elementary school and burned. They were on a sightseeing tour of West Maui and Molokai.

“The pilot's failure to maintain clearance from mountainous terrain while operating in marginal weather conditions, which resulted in the impact of the horizontal stabilizer and lower forward portion of the fenestron (tail rotor) with ground and/or vegetation and led to the separation of the fenestron and the pilot's subsequent inability to maintain control,” the report concluded to be the crash's probable cause. “Contributing to the accident was the pilot's decision to operate into an area surrounded by rising terrain, low and possibly descending cloud bases, rain showers and high wind.”

Nicole Bevilacqua Abel, 28, was a native of Murrysville, and her husband grew up in North Versailles. The couple worked as engineers at the Westinghouse headquarters in Cranberry.

She was a graduate of Franklin Regional High School and Penn State. He was a 2004 graduate of East Allegheny High School and a 2008 graduate of Grove City College with a degree in mechanical engineering.

The helicopter was engulfed in flames after crashing near Kilohana Elementary School. The school's principal said at the time that there had just been a heavy downpour and he thought the loud boom from the crash was thunder.

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters President Patricia Chevalier said in a statement that the company was studying the report and “taking the findings to heart to further improve our processes and procedures.”

A lawsuit filed by the family of a passenger against Blue Hawaiian was settled in March for an undisclosed amount, the Maui News reported.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.