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Regional News

Two dead in ocean helicopter crash

MAJURO — A fish-spotting helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff from a purse seiner last week in the central Pacific, killing both pilot and passenger on impact, according an official with the fishing boat’s agent in Majuro.

Killed in the accident were American pilot Jeffery Lynn, 40, and his Chinese passenger Zhang Youhai, 41. Zhang was a crew of the fishing vessel, Jih Yu 868, according to an official with Kendall Micronesia Inc., the fishing company’s agent in Majuro.

Click to enlarge
The purse seiner Jih Yu 868 with the damaged helicopter on board, top right, after arriving in Majuro a few days after the July 5 helicopter crash that killed two in Nauru waters.
The damaged helicopter cockpit on board the fishing vessel Jih Yu 868 in Majuro a few days after the crash in Nauru waters that killed two.  Photos by Hilary Hosia

The Jih Yu 868, is a Taiwan-flagged purse seiner operated by Chern Lung Fishery Company Ltd. of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The helicopter was owned by Vertol Systems Company Inc., a United States-based company that supplies helicopters for fishing vessels in the region. Vertol runs a maintenance operation for its helicopters at Amata Kabua International Airport in Majuro. Majuro is a major tuna transshipment hub for purse seiners fishing in the western and central Pacific region.

The vessel was in Nauru waters at the time of the crash July 5. Details were still scanty a week after the crash.

The Jih Yu 868 brought the bodies of the two men into Majuro hospital earlier this week and had the remains of the damaged helicopter on its deck.

Marshall Islands Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division was conducting an investigation into the incident, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration was expected to also be investigating the crash.

U.S. Embassy officials in Majuro and Fiji, which has diplomatic jurisdiction with Nauru, were also monitoring the situation because the deceased pilot was American.