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Hawaii tour helicopter with seven aboard is missing, search under way

HONOLULU (AP) – A tour helicopter with seven people aboard disappeared in Hawaii, and a search was under way in weather conditions described as challenging, the US Coast Guard said.

The owner of the helicopter contacted the Coast Guard about 45 minutes after the aircraft was due back from a tour of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast on Thursday evening (Dec 26), a Coast Guard statement said.

The Eurocopter AS350 helicopter took off from the town of Lihue, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said on Friday.

The helicopter has an electronic locator, but no signals had been received, according to the Coast Guard.

The helicopter was carrying a pilot and six passengers, two of whom were believed to be minors, the Coast Guard said.

“The weather conditions are challenging,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Cox, Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Honolulu.

“We have trained crews responding and on scene searching for any signs of the helicopter and those aboard.”

According to the Coast Guard statement, clouds and rain at the scene rendered visibility at 6.4km, with winds at 45kmh.

Friday’s forecast predicted winds were at about 37kmh.

A helicopter and crew was launched from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, and additional support was provided by the US Navy Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 37 at Kaneohe Bay.

A Coast Guard cutter and crew were also launched from Honolulu.

Further searches with a search-and-rescue airplane and crew and fresh helicopter crew were scheduled for first light, if necessary.

According to the release, helicopter tours are common above the island of Kauai, much of which is a state park.

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