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Coast Guard and Navy searching for missing tour helicopter

The Coast Guard and Navy are searching the rugged island of Kauai for a tour helicopter that disappeared Thursday.

“The weather conditions are challenging. We have trained crews responding and on scene searching for any signs of the helicopter and those aboard,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Cox, Coast Guard Joint Rescue Command Center Honolulu, in a prepared statement emailed to Navy Times.

The unnamed owner of the tour helicopter informed Coast Guard officials in Honolulu at 6:06 p.m. Thursday that the flight was due back at 5:21 p.m. but never returned from a tour of Kauai’s Napali Coast.

It carried a pilot and six passengers — two of them children — and an electronic locator, but no signals have been received.

The FAA issued an Alert Notice for a Eurocopter AS350 after it was reported overdue at Lihue Thursday evening, according to agency spokesman Ian Gregor.

He said that the tour departed from Lihue on the island’s southeastern coast.

Honolulu watchstanders scrambled an MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, which continued the search late Thursday.

Shortly after midnight, they asked for additional support from Navy Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 37 at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay and launched Coast Guard cutter William Hart from its Honolulu homeport.

If needed, further searchers are slated for first light Friday with a fresh Dolphin crew and a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules long range surveillance aircraft, according to the statement.

Because most of Kauai is a state park, nearly 80 percent of the island remains uninhabited.

Officials reported the weather over the island as cloudy with rain, with about 4 miles of visibility and winds at 28 mph.

Friday’s forecast calls for continued winds around 23 mph, 6-foot waves near the shore and scattered showers.

This is a breaking story and Navy Times will continue to update it.

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