Apologetic Hawaii mechanic to buy new copter, car


By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER

Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — The mechanic who is taking the blame for last week’s helicopter crash landing in downtown Honolulu says he’s buying a new copter for the company that leased the aircraft. He’s also buying a new car for the college student whose parked Mazda was badly damaged when the helicopter skidded down a street.

Brant Swigart said Tuesday he’s making the purchases to make up for not seeing the problem that caused the small helicopter’s engine failure. No one was badly hurt when the pilot was forced to crash-land on the street, but Swigart said he feels terrible that it could have been deadly.

Buying a replacement helicopter for Mauna Loa Helicopters shows Swigart’s character, said the company’s president, Benjamin Fouts.

“He just trying to take responsibility for what happened and make sure he does the right thing,” Fouts said. “He’s truly one-of-a-kind.”

Soon after last week’s crash, Swigart came forward to say the engine failure was his fault because he overlooked incorrect rigging that caused a cable to snap.

Fouts said while a brand-new Robinson R22 Beta can cost $270,000, Swigart will buy something that’s similar to the condition of the 1992 copter. Fouts said he doesn’t know how much that will cost.

Pilot Julia Link was a bit apprehensive about getting back in the pilot’s seat, but she flew a helicopter Monday for the first time since the emergency landing. Fouts said he and Link went on a flight over Punchbowl Crater, which is where she was flying last week with a photographer taking aerial shots.

When the helicopter lost power, her knowledge of the area helped her land on a street that she knew was a one-way and had no overhead wires, Fouts said.

“I just couldn’t believe how well she handled it,” he said.

Swigart called the Hawaii Pacific University student Monday about replacing his car.

“I figure he’s pretty much an innocent victim,” he said, adding that the student was going to contact his insurance company to see how they could handle Swigart’s offer.

“I don’t have the $22,000 in cash that the car cost him,” Swigart said, explaining he’ll either take out a loan or take care of the student’s new car payments.

“I’m trying to find money all day,” he said. “I’ll make it happen.”

Swigart has been commended for taking responsibility, but he said he’s just trying to do what’s right.

“If his insurance company is going to sue, I might as well buy him a car,” he said. “What’s the point in me running and hiding?”

He said he also wants to try and prevent insurance rates from increasing for Fouts and the student.

He said he doesn’t regret coming forward and taking blame: “I just feel that’s the way everybody should be.”

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Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/jenhapa .

 

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