Officials with the Pacific Missile Range Facility have confirmed Tuesday that four people were killed in a helicopter crash shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday morning.
The victims were identified on Wednesday as Daniel Maurice, 64, who was a chief pilot, check airman and FAA designated pilot examiner; Patrick Rader, 55, who was a command pilot and check airman; Ericka Tevez-Valdez, 42, who was a mechanic and part of the aircrew; and Mathew Haider, 44, who was a mechanic and part of the aircrew.
Maurice lived in Lyle, Washington, while the other victims all lived on Kauai.
The victims were identified by Brian Beattie, who is the director of operations for Croman Corporation, which is the contractor that operates the chopper that crashed, in a press release that was sent to Spectrum News Hawaii.
"The helicopter, operated by Croman Corporation, was supporting a training operation. Croman Corporation provides range support services to PMRF," it said in a media release.
The National Transportation Safety Board said in a tweet the agency is investigating the crash of the Sikorsky S-61N helicopter.
The FAA and U.S. Navy are also scheduled to arrive Wednesday to investigate the accident, according to Beattie.
The Sikorsky S-61N was built between 1959 and 1980 by Sikorsky Aircraft, which is now part of Lockheed Martin. It was designed to carry a substantial freight or passenger payload. One version was built to carry up to 30 passengers, according to the Igor I. Sikorsky Historical Archives website.
The helicopters were optimized for use over water, for example to support oil rig operations. Versions were also used by all branches of the U.S. military. Licensees in the United Kingdom and other countries have also built the aircraft.
Earlier, PMRF provided details and confirmed in a media statement that it was responding to the incident.
"Pacific Missile Range Facility emergency personnel responded to the crash of a civilian contracted helicopter on the northern area of the installation shortly after 10 a.m. today." The statement also noted that the aircraft was flying "in support of a range training operation." It added that any information on casualties will be released when available and that there will be an investigation into the cause of the accident.
A Kauai County spokesperson said county police and firefighters responded and were assisting the military. "For the Kauai Fire Department, the Waimea Fire Station's Engine 7 and Truck 7, along with the on-duty Battalion Chief initally responded to thes scene, but their assistance was not required. The Navy continues to take the lead in responding to this incident," said Alden Alayvilla, Public Information Officer for the Office of the Mayor in a emailed statement to Spectrum News Hawaii.
Earlier, the U.S. Navy confirmed that a military helicopter crashed near the Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands that’s located in Kekaha on the island of Kauai. The Pacific Missile Range Facility is a Navy base on the western edge of Kauai where the military tests missile defense technology and various units conduct exercises.
"PMRF is responding to an aviation incident near the north side of the installation. More information will be made available, but at this moment the primary focus is to allow first responders to handle the situation," said PMRF spokesperson, Thomas Clements, in a statement to the media.
"PMRF is a close community, and we mourn the loss of four of our Ohana. Counseling services are available to all on base who have been affected by the event. The Military & Family Support Center’s Emergency Family Assistance Center (EFAC) is available on PMRF to assist anyone impacted by the aircraft mishap with a variety of community needs," the facility said in a statement sent to Spectrum News Hawaii on Wednesday.
The Emergency Family Assistance Center includes: Clinicians, Chaplains, Information and referrals. The EFAC is open to all military, dependents, DoD civilians and contractors.
"First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who were lost this morning in this heartbreaking tragedy," said Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami in a press release sent to Spectrum News Hawaii. "I know there are no words that can express the extent of what you are going through or provide the solace that you need, but please know that our entire community is here for you. We offer our partners at PMRF any resources they may need, and we offer the families involved our deepest condolences during this difficult time."
Spectrum News Hawaii has reached out to Kauai County, the U.S. Navy and the Department of Transportation for comment.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Associated Press contributed to this report. The original story has been updated with a new statement from Croman Corporation, PMRF, information from Kauai County, information from the NTSB and a description of PMRF. (Feb. 23, 2022)