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Pearl Harbor helicopter crash and the bystanders who rescued passengers

After a tour helicopter crashed into the water near the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii's Pearl Harbor, several bystanders dove in to help save the victims.

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    Justice Winrich (l.) and her father Shawn Winrich read comments left on a video Shawn posted on YouTube of a helicopter crashing in the harbor, on Thursday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A private helicopter with five people on board crashed Thursday in Pearl Harbor, leaving a teenage passenger in critical condition.
    Audrey McAvoy/AP/File
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When a sightseeing helicopter crashed into the water near the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, several bystanders immediately dove in to help.

Shawn Winrich, a tourist from Madison, Wis., was taking photos of Pearl Harbor when he saw the helicopter beginning to fall. He switched to video and recorded while the helicopter plummeted into the water.

"All of a sudden it essentially just fell out of the sky and crash-landed in the water," Mr. Winrich told The Associated Press.

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That’s when he immediately stopped filming and jumped into the water to help.

Chris Gardner, who works part time at Keawe Adventures, was one of several who helped one of the helicopter’s passengers get out by cutting away his seatbelt.

Mr. Gardner was with a tour group at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center when the crash occurred. He and three other men took turns trying to free the passenger using a knife, Hawaii News Now reports.

"I came up for a breath and then went down, and then we were bringing him up," he told Hawaii News Now.

"It was a team effort and we pray that he's OK,” he added. "It's part of the instinct growing up in Hawaii.”

Witnesses said that the helicopter, which was on its way back to Honolulu from touring Walmea, looked normal as it was coming in. It wasn’t until the helicopter got closer to the water that it began shaking and dark smoke started pouring out.

Winrich’s daughter, Justice, described the situation as "crazy."

"You go on vacation and you never think you're going to see something like that," she told the Associated Press.

Two passengers were taken to the hospital in stable condition; a third was in critical condition. The condition of the pilot and a fourth passenger were not immediately known.

The USS Arizona Memorial is closed until further notice, but the visitor center remains open.

Daniel Rose, a visitor from Michigan, told Hawaii News Now that he was still in awe about the crash. "It was just crazy, unbelievable. It dropped maybe 10 foot off the shore and sank like a rock. I just thank God for the people on the shore who dove in and helped the people get out of the helicopter.”

The crash is the second major incident this year involving helicopters in Hawaii. In January, twelve Hawaii-based Marines were killed during nighttime training when two military helicopters crashed.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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