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Molokai Copter Crash Leaves 5 Dead

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HAWAII
Emergency vehicles from are positioned near Kilohana Elementary School on Molokai, in Hawaii, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011, after a helicopter taking four tourists on an excursion over the island crashed into a mountainside near the school killing all of the tourists and the pilot, according to authorities. (AP Photo/Joey Salamon) | AP Images

HONOLULU — A couple killed on board a helicopter that crashed on Hawaii's Molokai island were nuclear engineers from the Pittsburgh area who were married less than a week earlier.

Nicole and Michael Abel both worked for Westinghouse Electric Co., company spokesman Vaughn Gilbert said Friday.

"Clearly this is a tragic loss for the families involved and for Westinghouse. They had so many friends and colleagues who speak glowingly of them," Gilbert said.

The newlyweds worked the company's nuclear services division, which supplies nuclear power plants and nuclear power plant fuel, and performs plant inspections, maintenance and repairs.

The couple was married at St. Mary of the Mount Parish in Pittsburgh on Nov. 5, according to a website for a videographer who filmed their wedding. Videos of their ceremony have since been removed from the site.

The groom's Facebook page said he was a 2008 graduate of Grove City College and joined Westinghouse the same year. He attended East Allegheny Senior High School in North Versailles, Pa.

He changed his Facebook status to "married" Tuesday.

The Abels were on a 45-minute aerial tour of west Maui and Molokai when their helicopter crashed around midday Thursday.

All four passengers on the Blue Hawaiian Helicopters flight and their 30-year-old pilot, Nathan Cline, were killed.

The names of the other two passengers haven't been released, but authorities said they were from Ontario, Canada.

The Eurocopter EC-130 was engulfed in flames after crashing into a hillside about a quarter-mile from an elementary school. The school's principal said it was cloudy at the time of the crash, and it had just been raining hard.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said a National Transportation Board Safety investigator arrived in Hawaii on Friday to begin probing the cause of the crash. A preliminary report typically would come within a week or two, but it could be months before the probable cause of the crash is determined.

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters owner David Chevalier said the helicopter that crashed was less than a year old and was being leased from Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC.

Condolences for the pilot poured in on Blue Hawaiian's Facebook page Friday.

"Nathan had a wonderfully quirky sense of humor, gave a memorable tour of the islands, and was an all-around great guy," wrote Rafael Perrino, who flew with Cline on the West Maui-Molokai tour in August. "My heart goes out to Nathan's family, the families of lost passengers, and the Blue Hawaiian Helicopters team."

Kristin Zukis Gray said she was on the same tour two months ago and called Cline "a great, sweet, nice kid."

"May he rest in peace. And take solace in the fact that he died doing something that he truly loved – you could tell the second you stepped on board and put on your headphones how much he enjoyed what he did," she wrote.

Blue Hawaiian conducts 160,000 tours each year on all of the Hawaiian islands.

Tour companies advertise trips to Molokai to see the island's sea cliffs and Hawaii's tallest waterfall. The remote Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokai is where Hawaii exiled leprosy patients between 1866 and 1969.

The mostly rural island of about 7,000 people is between Maui and Oahu, where world leaders have gathered this week for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu.

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Associated Press writer Jennifer Sinco Kelleher contributed to this report.

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