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Coast Guard's search for 2 men off Molokai coast continues

Graphic of search patterns from various air, land and sea assets searching for two people from a downed helicopter off the northwest side of Molokai, Oct. 17, 2017. The helicopter was reported to have left Honolulu Monday on a day trip to Molokai and was on its way back when the incident occurred.

U.S. COAST GUARD

By TIMOTHY HURLEY AND ROSEMARIE BERNARDO | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: October 19, 2017

The U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday identified the two missing men who were aboard the helicopter that disappeared Monday night off the northwest coast of Molokai.

They are advanced helicopter student Jeremy Dossetter, 27, of Haleiwa and instructor Oliver Kirsch, 25, of Mauna Loa Helicopters.

The search is expected to continue for a fourth day today, officials said, although hopes dimmed somewhat after an uninflated yellow life jacket found floating in the water about 100 yards off Ilio Point was identified by the company as belonging to the aircraft.

In addition, a Molokai man who was fishing at Moo­momi Bay Monday night told authorities he saw a red blinking light in the sky before it plunged toward the ocean.

Dossetter, a certified flight instructor, commercial pilot and private pilot, was apparently training to earn certification allowing him to teach the use of flight instruments to students. Mastery of instruments allows a pilot to compensate for less-than-ideal weather conditions.

Dossetter, who moved here from San Francisco, previously attended Kenyon College in Ohio and the University of Exeter in England. He was a surfer and bike enthusiast, according to social media.

Kirsch, a college-­educated Swiss national who turned 25 last week, is a former Mauna Loa Helicopters student on Hawaii island who landed an instructor’s position with the company after obtaining full certification.

A self-described “child of the mountains” and bike enthusiast, Kirsch maintained a blog in which he described taking an apprenticeship as a helicopter pilot in Hawaii.

“Flying is my passion and I am curious about where this passion will lead me,” he wrote.

The U.S. Coast Guard, Navy and Maui Fire Department continued the search off Molokai Wednesday, along with a helicopter from the flight-training company.

Molokai resident Tim Emmanuel was fishing at Moomomi Bay Monday night when he saw a red blinking light in the sky.

“I just see one red blinking light descending toward the ocean fast,” said Emmanuel of Hoolehua. Within two seconds, the light disappeared. “I was like ‘what the heck is that?’ ”

At first, Emmanuel, 34, thought it was a drone. But shortly afterward, he saw a helicopter and an airplane arrive.

One of the aircraft then came to a complete stop in the air and hovered over the ocean, shining a bright spotlight toward the water where the red blinking light was last seen.

It wasn’t until Tuesday morning that he learned two men were reported missing after a Robinson R44 helicopter disappeared off the northwest coast of Molokai.

Emmanuel then went to the Hoolehua Fire Station and reported to the fire captain what he had witnessed.

So far, the search team has scoured about 7,200 square miles, according to Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Levasseur.

Weather conditions in the search area were 25 to 30 mph winds and 8-foot seas.

At 7:26 p.m. Monday, the Coast Guard received a call from the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport control tower reporting that they had lost communications with the Robinson helicopter.

The helicopter left Honolulu for flight training Monday and was heading back to Oahu when the tower lost communications.

A Coast Guard C-130 Hercules airplane and Navy Seahawk helicopter that were conducting training flew to the area immediately after the Coast Guard received the report of the missing aircraft.

Emmanuel was standing on the rocks along the shoreline of Moomomi Bay when he saw the red blinking light against the dark sky. He recalled hearing no sound of any impact.

Because of spotty reception at the bay, he texted his girlfriend on his cellphone to check whether there were any news reports of an aircraft accident. There were none.

At about 8:25 a.m. Tuesday, the fire department’s Air 1 helicopter spotted the life vest. After recovering the jacket, they turned it over to police. The helicopter also scanned the shoreline from Moomomi Beach to Ilio Point while ground crews combed near shore areas.

According to FAA records, the registered owner of the four-seater aircraft is Aviation Leasing LLC in Washington state. The helicopter was manufactured in 2002.

©2017 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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