AP News

Apologetic Hawaii mechanic to buy new copter, car


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's 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.

Matthew Lau was taking final exams when the helicopter damaged his 2012 Mazda 6. He said he's not sure if he'll take Swigart up on his offer or go through insurance.

Lau, 28, said his insurance company is determining whether the car is a total loss.

"I respect he took responsibility for this," Lau said. "It's great that Brant came out and said he'd buy me a new one outright."

Lau said he had saved up while serving in the Army National Guard and doing three tours in Iraq to buy the brand new car.

Swigart said he doesn't have the $22,000 in cash to replace that car, but he'll either take out a loan or take care of Lau'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 Lau.

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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