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Tour helicopter carrying 7 people goes missing off Hawaii

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Map: Kauai island in Hawaii (Credit: Google)

A search and rescue operation has been launched for a tour helicopter which went missing off Kauai in the Hawaiian islands, local officials say. Seven people, including two children, are believed to be on board.

The aircraft had taken off for a tour of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast and failed to return to Lihue Airport at 5:21 p.m., according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The owner alerted the Joint Rescue Coordination Center at 6:06 p.m. and a search was launched.

“The weather conditions are challenging. We have trained crews responding and on scene searching for any signs of the helicopter and those aboard,” Petty Officer 1st Class Robert Cox said on late Thursday night. He said the aircraft is equipped with an electronic locator, but no signals have been received.

A Coast Guard helicopter was searching off Kauai’s Na Pali Coast on late Thursday night, and support from the U.S. Navy was expected to arrive on early Friday morning. The Coast Guard Cutter William Hart and its crew were also sent to the island.

A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules plane will join the search at first light if needed.

Cox said seven people are believed to be on board the helicopter, including a pilot and six passengers, of whom two are children. Their identities were not immediately released. There was also no word on the name of the tour company.

Nearly 80 percent of Kauai is uninhabited, and much of it is part of a state park. Visitors often use tour helicopters to view and access the island. Common points of interest include Jurassic Park Falls, the Hanapepe Valley, Waimea Canyon, the Nā Pali Coast, the Hanalei Valley, and Mt. Waialeale.

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