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State Health Director killed in plane crash, 8 others survive

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 9:17 p.m. HST, Dec 11, 2013

State Health Department Director Loretta Fuddy died in a Makani Kai commuter airplane crash this afternoon off Kalaupapa in which eight other people -- including the pilot -- survived.

Fuddy's death was confirmed to the Star-Advertiser by several sources. 

Sometime before 4 p.m., a Honolulu-bound Cessna Grand Caravan carrying eight passengers and the pilot crashed about a half-mile off Molokai's north shore after taking off from Kalaupapa, officials said.

Richard Schuman, president of Makani Kai, said a pilot flying over the crash site about half-mile offshore observed eight passengers in the water with life vests, he said.

Soon after the crash, Schuman said "initial indications" were that everyone made it out of the aircraft, but a Maui Fire Department spokesman later confirmed that there was one fatality.

Maui Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga said three survivors were taken to Oahu, three went to Molokai General Hospital and two declined treatment and remained on Kalaupapa.

Honolulu Emergency Medical Services said paramedics took two people -- a 74-year-old female and a 39-year-old male -- in stable condition to an Oahu hospital at about 6:30 p.m. from Honolulu Airport. A third person was medavaced directly to an Oahu hospital.

Schuman said the pilot survived and called him after the crash. The pilot was flown to Oahu and drove himself to the Queen's Medical Center to be checked out, Schuman said.

He said the pilot was "very experienced" and previously worked for Aloha Airlines.

Schuman said the plane took off from Kalaupapa for Oahu at about 3:45 p.m.

Fuddy became acting health director in January, after the governor's original nominee, Dr. Neal Palafox, withdrew his name at Abercrombie's request in January 2011. Just after being appointed and confirmed as director, Fuddy was involved in the release of President Barack Obama's birth certificate, at the president's request, in April 2011.

Besides Fuddy, Health Department Deputy Director Keith Yamamoto was also on board.

Yamamoto, dressed in blue swim trunks and a T-shirt, was seen being driven away from Makani Air's Honolulu Airport headquarters at about 7 p.m. 

A Coast Guard official confirmed nine people were on board, that one person swam to shore and that rescue crews pulled the other eight out of the water, but he would not give any details on their conditions.

Crews from the Coast Guard and a Maui Fire Department helicopter responded, with the Coast Guard sending helicopters and C-130 aircraft.

MFD officials said the plane went down about a half-mile northwest of Kalaupapa and eight people were seen in the water with lifevests.

A Health Department spokeswoman confirmed Fuddy and Yamamoto were on the flight, and had said early this evening that the department had been told that both had survived.

However confirmation of Fuddy's death came after 8 p.m.

Makani Kai Air, established by Schuman Aviation Co. in 2009, uses two Cessna Grand Caravan turbine aircraft, two Piper Chieftain twin-engine airplanes, two Eurocopter AS-350 A-Stars, and an MD500. The parent company also operates Makani Kai Helicopters.

In June, Makani Kai Air expanded its Molokai service to offer five daily round-trip flights between Honolulu and Kalaupapa. 

According to Makani Kai Air's website, the Cessna 208 Caravan is a single turboprop engine, fixed-gear short-haul aircraft built in the United States by Cessna. The airplane seats up to nine passengers and a pilot.

According to FAA records, the plane that crashed was manufactured in 2002. Its last airworthiness certificate was issued in 2008 and is valid until 2015.

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