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Salvage divers begin recovery of plane as pilot shares story

By Timothy Hurley

LAST UPDATED: 09:04 p.m. HST, Dec 18, 2013

A salvage dive team has started to recover a plane from the waters off Kalaupapa on the same day that the pilot of the Makani Kai Air Cessna Caravan talked for the first time about the crash landing in the ocean on Dec. 11.

Makani Kai owner Richard Schuman said he hopes the Cessna's engine can be recovered, but the plane can't be pulled out of the water in one piece.

At a news conference this morning, Clyde Kawasaki, the pilot of the plane that crashed in the water off Molokai's Kalaupapa Peninsula said today that he gave up the plane's last life jacket to a passenger before jumping in the roiling water.

"I said 'whatever' and I walked into the ocean hoping to swim for a floating cooler, but I never reached it," said Kawasaki, 60.

When he grew weary of treading without a preserver in the water, he clung to a passenger.

Kawasaki, a former Aloha Airlines pilot, spoke to the media at the Honolulu International Airport headquarters of Makani Kai Air.

One passenger, state Health Director Loretta Fuddy, 65, died following the crash, and seven other survived without any major injuries when Kawasaki glided the plane to a water landing.

 "It was devastating to say the least," he said of learning later that Fuddy had died. "I could not understand how that could have happened....everybody seemed fine when we got out of the airplane."

The last time he saw Fuddy, she seemed fine, he said.

Kawasaki sustained a gash to his head during the crash. After making sure that all passengers had exited the plane, he joined them in the waves. Shortly thereafter, Kawasaki saw that a plane had spotted the wreck. Kawasaki told media today that he then knew a rescue would soon be under way.

Josh Lang, a helicopter pilot who was flying his private plane to Maui with his girlfriend, said it was "pure luck" they were in the area. "It looked like most people were waving and it looked like they were OK," Lang said.

His girlfriend, Jaimee Thompson, said they felt obligated to stay until help arrived, to give the people in the water hope that they would be rescued.

Maui officials have not yet released an official cause of death for Fuddy, who witnesses say became unresponsive while awaiting rescue. An autopsy was conducted Friday. Her body was returned home to Oahu on Monday morning. Services are set for Saturday.

In the aftermath of the crash, Kawasaki reported that the Cessna Grand Caravan had  "catastrophic engine failure" shortly after takeoff on Molokai.

If the engine is recovered, it will be sent to manufacturer Pratt & Whitney for analysis.



The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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pgkemp wrote:
on December 18,2013 | 11:31AM
LRC wrote:
What a great man. My question is - isn't it a federal law to have enough life jackets on board for ALL passengers and crew?? How were there not enough for him???? Isn't that a fine waiting to happen for this airline?
on December 18,2013 | 11:47AM
Or it could be that in the heat of the moment they were not able to find ALL the life vests, and it might make more sense to get out of the plane alive instead of looking for the stupid life vest while the plane is sinking with him in it.
on December 18,2013 | 12:18PM
bobbob wrote:
nicely said. I'd be willing to bet that there WERE enough vests for all the passengers. Perhaps he grabbed his, but someone else didn't. Also, he did wait until everyone else safely left the plane, which is the opposite of what the captain of that cruise ship concordia (sp?) did.
on December 18,2013 | 04:41PM
Skyler wrote:
Makes perfect sense. LRC raises non-issues.
on December 18,2013 | 06:32PM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
Bravo bruddah, you saved many lives with your adept water landing.
on December 18,2013 | 11:49AM
aomohoa wrote:
Why wasn't there a life jacket for everyone on the plane???
on December 18,2013 | 12:04PM
Please read my earlier post.
on December 18,2013 | 12:19PM
Papakolea wrote:
"he gave up the plane's last life jacket to a passenger before jumping in the roiling water. I said 'whatever' and I walked into the ocean hoping to swim for a floating cooler...." What a humble hero.
on December 18,2013 | 12:27PM
Hugo wrote:
Pilots learn how to land an airplane before ever getting in an airplane. The "owners manual" gives the "magic numbers". Best glide speed to provide the maximum amount of time. In a light training airplane think about 65 mph. Landing speed is just over the speed at which the airplane will not fly. Think about 50 mph. Aviation pukes call this information a "Sully". NO real expertise needed at all. Just put the "numbers" in the airspeed indicator and wait to be called a hero. Military aircrews are nevah allowed to have big heads.
on December 18,2013 | 12:39PM
what wrote:
As technically easy as it is, you make no mention of the fact that you have to get it right in extraordinary circumstances, that unlike with military pilots, passengers lives depend on the pilot to get it right even with things around you are going to hel.
on December 18,2013 | 01:01PM
AmbienDaze wrote:
LIKE !!!
on December 18,2013 | 01:18PM
gobows wrote:
how does a pilot control the speed of a plane with no engine and falling out of the sky? wing flaps?
on December 18,2013 | 02:32PM
Skyler wrote:
Dey gotta flap reeeeal hard...
on December 18,2013 | 06:33PM
whatzupwitdat wrote:
He's truly a HERO!! Hawaiian Airlines or other bigger airlines, HIRE THIS PILOT!! KUDOS TO YOU , Mr. Kawasaki!
on December 18,2013 | 02:03PM
hornswoggler wrote:
Yes, an experienced pilot in an emergency such as this is priceless, to bad mandatory retirement age is 65. It would be highly unlikely that Hawaiian or any other big airline would hire and train him only to have him retire soon. However, he still can fly at Makani Kai, Good for them.
on December 18,2013 | 04:32PM
whatzupwitdat wrote:
He's truly a HERO!! Kudos to you, Mr. Kawasaki!
on December 18,2013 | 02:12PM
gobows wrote:
how a heck a cooler was floating there in the water.
on December 18,2013 | 02:30PM
Poipounder808 wrote:
It came out of the luggage pod on the plane.
on December 18,2013 | 03:29PM
Poipounder808 wrote:
Try do that at only 500-800 feet of altitude like he did. You got issues apparently.
on December 18,2013 | 03:35PM
CUEBALL wrote:
I have known Captain Clyde Kawasaki for 30 years. He was my first Officer at Mid Pac and I was his first Officer at Aloha, before I became a Capatin. He is a fine aviator. A successful ditching of any small aircraft, especially in rough waters is a difficult feat to accomplish, esecially right after takeoff when there is little time to set it up. But he is a real pro, and he pulled it off beautifully. Good work, Clyde!
on December 18,2013 | 03:43PM
hornswoggler wrote:
He flew the airplane AND got the pax ready for ditching at the same time. Agreed, job well done.
on December 18,2013 | 04:37PM
First-Responder wrote:
Hurrah for pilot Cylde Kawasaki. As a pilot myself, I applaud his skill and wisdom as the Pilot in Command during this emergency. Watching him on TV today, he is also humble and resourceful. Does the Governor have an award for people like this? He and Keith Yamamoto should be recognized for their actions on that faithful day. Fine men indeed.
on December 18,2013 | 07:59PM
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