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Big Island helicopter crash survivors in touch with family

By Cynthia Yip

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    HONOLULU (KITV) — The identities of three of the passengers onboard the Paradise Helicopter’s helicopter were released following the crash on the Big Island Wednesday evening.

Clay Watson and his two daughters, Kennedy and Clayton were on board the helicopter when it went down. Taylor Tipton, Watson’s brother-in-law, and the spokesperson for the family, told KITV4,”The family is waiting for more information from authorities. We appreciate the thoughts and prayers. We are not commenting on health conditions at this time.”

Clay Watson is a 48-year-old Chattanooga, Tennessee auto dealer who was vacationing with his daughters on The Big Island. His 18-year-old daughters had recently graduated from high school.

Ladd Sanger, a licensed pilot and attorney, litigated a case in April 2019 against K& S Helicopters, which operates Paradise Helicopters, when one of its choppers ran out of fuel and crashed.

In that crash too, no one was seriously hurt. Sanger says, “In this case the operator has had several unfortunate accidents, I just finished a case last year where this operator was flying a helicopter and ran it out of fuel and crashed it.”

Sanger says, there are three major areas of concern tour helicopter companies should consider on the Islands. “They need to follow the common air procedures manual it was written by the FAA to increase safety. Use twin engine helicopters on most of the flights especially on Kauai where the terrain is so unforgiving. You need to make sure the pilots are trained specifically to the Hawaii topography, routes and micro-climates.”

Senator Chris Lee says he is introducing a bill that will require helicopter companies to report where, when and who they are flying, and establish a new helicopter safety working group to come up with recommendations to the FAA and local authorities about the operation of helicopter tours.

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