Paradise Helicopter makes emergency landing in Hilo

Passengers claim chopper ran out of fuel

Published  5:39 PM HST Jul 25, 2013
HONOLULU -

A McDonnell Douglas 500-E tour helicopter landed on its side in a grassy field near the Hilo airport Thursday afternoon.

The pilot declared an emergency at around 1:15 p.m.  as it was returning from a tour to Kilauea Volcano.

The FAA said the chopper landed without its engine on.

No one was seriously injured, but a family of four visiting from Texas was scared to death.

"It was the scariest thing in my life. I'm shaking. I was praying all the way that would be able to make it back. I am a God- fearing man. I  just prayed we would make it," said Paul Smith.

Smith said before he got on the flight he heard the pilot talking about whether they might need to refuel before taking off on another tour.

But he was reassured it would not be a problem.

"I joked, you'd better make sure you have enough fuel in here,” said Smith.

But Smith wasn’t laughing when during the tour, the pilot said they would have to start to head back.

"He said 'we are using more gas than I thought', and he said we have to get back .

And I said, 'are you sure we have enough to get back? and he said sure, it was only five miles," said Smith.

Paradise Helicopters director Rob Payesko said the company operates anywhere from 7 to 10 tours daily, and normally refuels several times and day but could not comment on exactly what happened until he talked to his pilots.

Smith suffered minor scrapes in the mishap.

But he was getting madder by the minute about the whole experience.

 "That company shouldn’t be in business," said Smith.

Smith’s two children ages 12 and 17 said they were OK.

His wife was sure of one thing.

 "No more helicopters," she said.

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