'Brilliant' pilot, 28, killed in shock helicopter 'tragedy'

Witnesses reported hearing an explosion in the sky with smoke trailing behind the aircraft.

A 28-year-old pilot was killed when the helicopter she was flying crashed and caught fire, leaving friends and family "shocked" by the sudden "tragedy".

Naomi Maiolani’s body was found by rescuers beneath the wreckage of the chopper. About four hours earlier, she had crashed in the rugged hills of the village of Fontia near Carrara, Tuscany, Italy.

Some witnesses reported hearing an explosion in the sky and seeing smoke trailing behind the helicopter as it fell at around 5pm last Friday.

Naomi Maiolani helicopter crash
Naomi Maiolani, 28, was killed in a helicopter crash. Source: Jam Press

Naomi had taken off from Oristano, Sardinia, in a Eurocopter AS350 B3 owned by the helicopter transportation company she worked for. She was returning to Sondrio, Lombardy — a 600-kilometer journey where the firm is headquartered — after transferring passengers.

The 28-year-old had made a technical stop on Elba Island to refuel about an hour before the crash, local media reported.

Friends and family 'shocked' by pilot's death

Naomi attended a flight academy in Trento, Trentino-Alto Adige, from 2017 to 2019 before moving to Sondrio to work as a helicopter pilot. A fellow pilot who attended aeronautics college with her said "it was a shock" after hearing of Naomi's death.

"A transfer from Sardinia is a long flight. There are many aspects that need to be analysed," they said.

Naomi Maiolani helicopter crash wreckage
Her body was found underneath the wreckage. Source Jam Press

Petula Savorani, one of Naomi's former teachers, told local media that her "passion for flying was immense". "These are things one never wishes to hear. She had a brilliant mind and always stood out," they said.

The young pilot often volunteered for the Red Cross and was thinking about becoming a search and rescue worker one day, her devastated family has revealed. Naomi is survived by her parents, sister, niece, and grandmother in their hometown of Faenza, Emilia-Romagna.

Investigation underway

Police and the National Flight Safety Agency are now investigating the crash. Lines of investigation include a malfunction or an impact with a hill in a thick cloud of fog.

There was no black box on board the aircraft.


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