Four crash victims identified

Four of the five people killed Wednesday in a sightseeing helicopter crash on Kaua`i have been identified. Denver TV station KUSA reported today that two area residents, Jeff and Monica Peterson, both 33, died in the crash. It also named 53-year-old Teresa M. Wadiak of Virginia. The pilot had previously been identified as Mark Lundgren, 44, of Kalaheo. The body of the fifth victim was only recovered this morning from the crash site on the slopes of Mount Waialeale.

Lundgren is survived by his wife, Diane, and three adult sons. Monica Peterson was described by KUSA as a fashion designer.

The helicopter, a four-passenger Bell 206BII Jet Ranger, was operated by Jack Harter Helicopters, which boasted a perfect safety record up until the crash. The company said Lundgren had been flying for the company since 1995.

The Associated Press reported that Lundgren last contacted air traffic controllers at around 9 a.m., when he reported leaving Waialeale Crater. The wreckage was spotted by another tour company’s helicopter pilot at around noon, at an elevation of 4,000 feet.

Steep terrain and unpredictable weather hampered rescue efforts. According to Kauai County spokesperson Cyndi Ozaki, one of the victims survived the crash and was able to speak to two rescue workers who were able to reach the crash site Wednesday afternoon. She died before she could be airlifted out.

It took several attempts over nearly two days before all the bodies were recovered.

An investigation into the cause of the crash is underway.

Mount Waialeale is the most prominent geological feature on Kaua`i, the oldest in the island chain. It stands 5,200 feet high, and is described as one of the wettest places in the world, receiving over 400 inches of rain a year. Much of its dramatic cliffs and deep valleys can only be seen from the air.

According to the Jack Harter Helicopters website, the company obtained a special exemption from FAA rules governing tour flights that allowed it to fly as low as 500 feet above the ground. “This is the lowest flight level allowed for helicopter tours in Hawaii,” the site states.

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  1. Having recently lost three of my family members in a Helicopter accident on the Big Island (JUN 15th, Jody Laughman, Nicole Laughman, and James Thomas) I just wanted to pay my respects to these families. I am having a hard time coping with their deaths and empathize with your losses. You are in my prayers and thoughts.

    Lost in California
    Cindi Kuhn

  2. Thank you Cindi for your prayers, my cousin Edward(Jimmy)Wadiak and his wife Teresa were celibrating their 25th wedding anniversary and were tragically lost in this accident. They leave behind 2 grown daughters who will greatly miss thier parents, our prayers are with the girls Jimmy and Teresa are with god now.

    Thank you for your thoughts

  3. On June 15, 2003 we lost our son, James Thomas and his family, Jody and Nicole Laughman on the Big Island of Hawaii. I feel so sorry for your families. Our prayers are with you all. Maybe together we can let people know how dangerous these helicopter flights are and save some family the agony we are going thru. Please pray for us.

  4. Just recently, we lost a precious family
    member in the accident in Kaua’i. (Mark Lundgren).
    Although he is gone from our sights, he will forever remain in our hearts. We are deeply sorry for all the losses. Time will heal all open wounds.

    We are truly sorry Diane.

  5. Having lost my only sibling (James Thomas)and his family(Jody Laughman and Nichole Laughman)on Fathers Day, June 15,2003 has left a huge hole in our family and in our hearts. I would like to thank everyone who has prayed for our family’s in this very difficult time. Our prayers and thoughts go out to the family’s of the accident victims on July 23rd in hawaii as well as other family’s who have lost loved ones to untimely deaths.

  6. Our hearts and prayers go out to you on the loss of your loved ones. I hope you can in some way find peace with this tragedy. As you have read from several other emails, we share in your grief as we recently lossed three of our loved ones (Jim, Jodi, and Nicole) in the June 15th accident on the Big Island.

    I live in Stafford, VA, so please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

    God Bless!

  7. Jim and Tess were my brother-in-law and sister-in-law and were very special to my husband, my sons and to myself. They will be missed tremendously. I want to extend my condolences to the Peterson family, the Lundgren family, and to the Laughman family. You will be included in my prayers. Thank you for your kind thoughts!

    Maryann Wadiak

  8. Sitting on my laptop, 12/6/2003, I reflect on my
    Kauai Copter flight that I lived through. I have told dozens of people NOT TO TAKE THESE FLIGHTS.

    Though my flight was safe and we made it back, I think now that I am really lucky to have made it.

    I am sorry for your losses, I will continue to do my part and warn others when I visit the islands.


  9. I know nothing about Nicole Laughman other than that she had to have been a great and wonderful girl to be around. I send the family many prayers as well to one person whom I know was especially close with her.