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Remains of 6 people found at site of tour helicopter crash in Hawaii

The grim announcement came hours after the wreckage of the helicopter, which had 7 aboard, was found on Kauai.

The remains of six people were recovered Friday at the site of a tour helicopter crash on a Hawaiian island, a fire official said.

There were no signs of any survivors among the seven people on board, said Solomon Kanoho, battalion chief of the Kauai Fire Department. He made the announcement Friday afternoon, hours after crews found the wreckage along the remote north coast of the island.

Authorities identified three of the victims Saturday as the pilot, Paul Matero, 69, of Wailua; Amy Gannon, 47; and Jocelyn Gannon, 13; both of Wisconsin. The Kauai Police Department said in a Facebook post that autopsies are being conducted to positively confirm the identities of the others.

The other four victims are believed to be a family from Switzerland, police said.

Authorities suspended its search Friday due to fog and poor visibility. Additional searches resumed Saturday at first light.

Coast Guard Cutter William Hart moves toward the Na Pali Coast on the Hawaiian island of Kauai on Friday, the day after a tour helicopter disappeared with seven people aboard. Authorities say wreckage of the helicopter has been found in a mountainous area on the island, as well as the remains of six people.Lt. j.g. Daniel Winter / U.S. Coast Guard via AP

"There are no indications of survivors," Kanoho said, adding the wreckage was in a steep area.

The tour helicopter was reported overdue at around 6 p.m. Thursday. The Safari Helicopter was conducting a tour over the Na Pali area with a pilot and six passengers on board, officials said.

Safari Helicopter said in a statement: "We mourn with the family members of those who were lost in the tragic accident. ... Safari is fully cooperating with the NTSB and the FAA to determine the cause of Thursday's crash."

The company said its pilot, Matero, was a "seasoned member" with 12 years of experience touring Kauai.

Kauai is an island west of Oahu.

The last contact anyone had with the helicopter was around 4:40 p.m. Thursday when the pilot reported the tour was leaving the Waimea Canyon area, Kauai County officials said.

The aircraft had been scheduled to return around 5:30 p.m. at the landing pad in the town of Lihue. The Coast Guard had said there were two minors aboard.

Kanoho said earlier Friday that there were members of two families on board, a party of two and a party of four.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said in a statement earlier Friday that “Our thoughts are with the families of those on-board as search and rescue crews work at the site of the helicopter crash on Kauaʻi.”

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending three investigators to the scene of the crash.

Ige said the state would do whatever it could to assist with the investigation.

Eighty percent of the island is uninhabited. Most of it is a state park, and visitors aboard tour helicopters from several companies are a daily occurrence, weather permitting, the Coast Guard said.

The Waimea Canyon is among several attractions that draw tours there, the agency said.

Derek Kawakami, mayor of the County of Kauai, said Friday afternoon that "we ask for your continued thoughts and prayers."

The cause of the crash has not been determined, but it is the third helicopter crash in Hawaii this year, NBC affiliate KHNL of Honolulu reported.

U.S. Rep. Ed Case, a Democrat who represents a district in Hawaii that includes Honolulu, said in a statement Friday that more must be done to regulate the tour and small-aircraft industries and improve safety.

In September, Case introduced a bill he said would impose strict regulations on commercial tour operators, including helicopters and small planes. It would require that tour flight pilots focus on flying the aircraft and not also act as tour guides. It also would restrict where they can fly and how low.

"Tour helicopter and small aircraft operations are not safe, and innocent lives are paying the price," Case said in a statement Friday.

The FAA said it conducts random and regular surveillance on all Hawaii air tour operators and ensures companies address any issues. Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, told The Associated Press the agency does not have concerns about the industry statewide.