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Lanai plane crash victim’s family sues airline

  • COURTESY NTSBNTSB investigator Andrew Swick at the site of the wreckage of the plane that crashed on Lanai on Feb. 26.
    COURTESY NTSB
    NTSB investigator Andrew Swick at the site of the wreckage of the plane that crashed on Lanai on Feb. 26.

The sister of one of two Maui County Planning Department employees killed in an airplane crash on Lanai in February is suing the airline and the estate of the dead pilot.

Lawyers for Heather Shannon, sister of Kathleen Kern, filed the lawsuit in state court in Honolulu on  Friday.

The lawsuit names Maui Island Air and the estate of Richard Rooney as defendants.

Kern, Rooney and Tremaine Balberdi, another Maui County Planning employee, died Feb. 26 when their chartered, 10-seat airplane crashed and burst into flames in a former pineapple field shortly after takeoff from Lanai Airport. Three other Maui County employees survived the crash.

Richard Fried, an attorney for Kern’s family, said Monday the lawsuit was the first filed over the crash.

Officials for Maui Island Air Inc., and Maui Aircraft Leasing LLC did not immediately return a phone call and email seeking comment from The Associated Press.

The airline markets itself online as Volcano Air Tours, offering charter tours of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park since 1993.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in March that the crash left a 640-foot-long debris field. The NTSB said in its preliminary report that visibility was clear despite the crash happening at night.

One of the survivors of the crash told a Transportation Security Administration official that the plane made an extreme bank to the right after taking off.

The crash led Maui County officials to reconsider how much its employees should travel by air to other islands. Lanai, which is mostly owned by Oracle Corp. billionaire Larry Ellison, and Molokai are part of the county.

Fried said Kern and other staff members usually commuted to Lanai by ferry but the charter flight was arranged because of a late meeting.

Kern, 50, was originally from Canada and pursued a longtime dream to live in Hawaii.

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