A woman who was driving on a street where a helicopter crashed in a Honolulu suburb says she looked up to see fire as the aircraft plummeted to the ground in front of her.

Melissa Solomon said she thought the area was being bombed or an airplane had fallen.

The Honolulu Fire Department says three people died in the crash in the town of Kailua.

Solomon said she had turned onto another street because she was afraid pieces would fall on her car. She pulled over and called emergency services but couldn't get through.


She then drove back and could see it was a helicopter with people at the scene who appeared to be helping.

A resident says he heard the fatal crash of a helicopter then saw a ball of fire in a road when he ran from his house in suburban Honolulu.

Leleo Knappenberger told Hawaii News Now that his mother heard the helicopter flying over the house, making a strange noise.

He said the aircraft was "all smashed to pieces."

A federal agency says a helicopter was a four-seat Robinson R44.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor says the agency believes three people were on board the aircraft. He says the circumstances of the morning crash remained unknown.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.