TribLIVE

| News

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Report blames pilot for 2011 Hawaii crash that killed Pittsburgh couple

Michael Abel and Nicole Bevilacqua Abel were two engineers with a bright future ahead.

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Saturday, July 26, 2014, 4:39 p.m.
 

A report identifying the pilot as the likely cause of a deadly Hawaiian helicopter crash is bringing some closure to family members, according to the lawyer for one family.

The pilot's flying too close to the mountains during inclement weather was the likely cause of a sightseeing helicopter crash that killed all five people aboard on Nov. 10, 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board determined in a final report published Friday.

Pilot Nathan Cline, 30; 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.

“Michael Abel and his wife Nicole, they were innocent passengers and their families have suffered quite a bit ... from this horrific event,” said Mark Grace, attorney for David and Marcia Abel, Michael's parents. “They are pleased that (the report) finally came out. It brings some sort ... of closure to what happened.”

Michael Abel, 25, a North Versailles native, and Nicole Abel, 28, of Murrysville were married atop Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh five days before boarding the 45-minute aerial tour over Molokai to see the island's sea cliffs and Hawaii's tallest waterfall while on their honeymoon. The couple worked as engineers at Westinghouse headquarters in Cranberry.

John Gismondi, attorney for Bruce and Cheryl Bevilacqua, Nicole's parents, said he was not surprised by the report's conclusion.

“We knew all along that weather was an issue,” Gismondi said. “It's been a very, very long wait for the family. ... The reality is that the report coming out doesn't change the depth of the human tragedy involved.”

Gismondi said he's not sure the report provides closure for the Bevilacquas, but “it's another piece that can be put to rest.”

Both attorneys said that although the report took about 3 12 years to be completed, it was very thorough.

The families have wrongful death lawsuits pending in U.S. District Court against Blue Hawaiian and the manufacturer of the helicopter.

“We're cautiously optimistic that Blue Hawaiian at this point will do the right thing and try to bring this matter to an end quickly so (the families) don't have to suffer with protracted litigation,” Grace said. “When families have to go through that, it's like opening the wound every time.”

The report found the pilot failed to clear the mountainous terrain while operating in marginal weather conditions, causing the tail rotor and horizontal stabilizer to hit the ground and/or vegetation, which led to the pilot's loss of control.

“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,” the report of probable cause stated.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

Add Kari Andren to your Google+ circles.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Allegheny

  1. Peduto blasts Wolf’s plan to borrow $3B to shore up pensions
  2. Derry boy recovering at home after high-profile intestinal transplant
  3. Pittsburgh is planning to add network of bike lanes through Oakland
  4. School credit ratings a problem for several in Western Pennsylvania
  5. Public Utility Commission will consider Yellow Cab fare hikes
  6. Fugitive arrested at Plum motel on drug, gun charges
  7. Judge adds 2 years to sentence of Baldwin Borough man acquitted of murder
  8. 2 firefighters injured in Millvale house fire
  9. Woman crashes car at Pittsburgh federal building after high-speed chase
  10. Newsmaker: Jesabel I. Rivera-Guerra
  11. Rising East Liberty out of reach for Pittsburgh’s poor