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Pilot described 'catastrophic engine failure' in Molokai crash

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 04:01 p.m. HST, Dec 12, 2013

The pilot of the single-engine commuter plane that crashed into the sea a mile off Kalaupapa Wednesday said the aircraft suffered "catastrophic engine failure," and a federal transportation official says it may not be recoverable.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash of the Cessna plane, said rough seas may make it nearly impossible to lift the nearly 42-foot single-engine Cessna from the sea.

The Cessna Caravan 208B went down off Molokai's north shore around 3:30 p.m., killing state Health Director Loretta Fuddy. Eight other people, including its pilot, were aboard the Makani Kai aircraft and survived. Only two, who are believed to be visitors, remained hospitalized in Honolulu today.

Eric Weiss, NTSB spokesman in Washington, D.C., said an investigator stationed in the islands is looking into the crash. An initial report could be completed in 10 to 14 days. 

However, Weiss said rough seas in the area may prevent the 11-year-old aircraft from being salvaged from the ocean.

Makani Kai Air owner Richard Schuman told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser this morning that the pilot said the plane suffered a "catastrophic engine failure" over the ocean.

The pilot reported hearing a bang before the engine failure and then had everybody put on life vests, Schuman said.

Schuman declined to identify pilot, whom he has known since 1996, but said he flew for Aloha Airlines before it went out business in 2008 and other air carriers in Hawaii.

"He joined us full time a year ago," Schuman said.

Schuman said he would like to recover the Cessna, but that decision will be made by other officials.

"If it is humanly possible," Schuman added, "I would like to see the aircraft recovered."

The Rev. Pat Killilea, pastor of St. Francis Church at Kalaupapa, said he didn't see the plane hit the water, but watched rescue operations from Kalaupapa's airport where the survivors were taken.

Killilea said the pilot swam to shore to get help for the passengers floating offshore.

"He (pilot) had been able to get the passengers out of the plane wearing their life vests. However, once in the water they were beginning to drift apart and so he decide to swim to shore to get help," Killilea said this morning in a phone interview. He added, "There was blood on his (pilot's) chest when he arrived at the airport."

Also, while at the airport, Killilea said he spoke with crash survivors including Deputy Health Director Keith Yamamoto; Rosa Key, a National Park Service administrator at Kalaupapa; and Key's husband, Jake. The names of the pilot and other passengers have not been released.

Killilea said Fuddy's body was taken to the settlement's care home where he held a prayer service for her. Her body was later taken to Molokai General Hospital.

Killilea described the scene at the airport as "hectic but calm" as nurses and people from settlement attended to the eight survivors.

"That's what happens here," Killilea said. "Everyone was on board to help."

The plane is now under the jurisdiction of the NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Schuman said he flew to Kalaupapa Wednesday and then returned to Honolulu to personally meet with the survivors of the crash.

The company's daily flights to Kalaupapa -- two from Oahu and one from Molokai Airport -- will continue even though Makani has lost its only backup plane, Schuman said. Before the crash the air carrier had three in its fleet, using one as a backup. Makani Kai took over flying to Kalaupapa nearly three years ago.

The aircraft had a valid operating certificate and the company said it had never had an accident in its more than 20-year history. 

Fuddy, 65, was at Kalaupapa for annual meeting of Hansen's disease patients. By law, the head of the Health Department, which Fuddy was named to lead in January 2011, also serves as the mayor of Kalawao County. The Hansen's disease settlement on Kalaupapa is still run by the health department, though only a few former patients continue to live there.

Janice Okubo, health department spokeswoman, said Yamamoto is still recuperating from the crash and didn't report to work today. In the interim until Gov. Neil Abercombie appoints Fuddy's replacement, the governor's chief of staff will oversee the activities of the department.

The Coast Guard said it received the distress call at 3:27 p.m.

Rescue swimmers from two Coast Guard MH-65  Dolphin helicopters were deployed, pulling three passengers from the water. Maui Fire Rescue retrieved the other passengers.

Three people were transported by Dolphin helicopter crews to Honolulu for emergency medical services. One was flown directly to an Oahu hospital. Two of them -- a 74-year-old woman and a 39-year-old man -- were transported by Emergency Medical Services ambulances from Makani Kai's Honolulu Airport headquarters to Queen's Medical Center in stable condition. Two people, Yamamoto and the pilot, were taken by another Makani Kai plane to Honolulu. The pilot drove himself to Queens to be examined. Yamamoto was driven home.

Three other passengers remained on Molokai and were treated and released, authorities said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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ryan02 wrote:
Sad to hear this. On a different subject, I think the preferred terms is "Hansen's disease."
on December 12,2013 | 06:00AM
Mana07 wrote:
What are you talking about? The article calls it Hansen's. Unless I missed something the term leprosy isn't used.
on December 12,2013 | 10:49AM
ryan02 wrote:
The fixed it -- the original article this morning still used the old term.
on December 12,2013 | 12:17PM
kapoleitalkstory wrote:
We will all miss Loretta, Hawaii is a better place because of her work.
on December 12,2013 | 07:05AM
gthx1138y wrote:
Get choke typos in this report, please revise.
on December 12,2013 | 07:07AM
tod wrote:
Agree. How old is the airplane? In one sentence it says the plane had an 11-year history. In another sentence it says the plane is 20 years old. Which is it?
on December 12,2013 | 08:56AM
Poipounder808 wrote:
The plane was 11 years old, the company never had a crash in 20 years.
on December 12,2013 | 09:09AM
kiragirl wrote:
Condolences to her family. My God Bless.
on December 12,2013 | 07:13AM
jwaldrip7 wrote:
following this tragedy on the news i saw the owner of the co. shed tears and genuine sorrow for what happened, unlike the matson co. and the "in-your face" response we received when they finally spoke out about their part in destroying the eco-systen around our island....maybe matson should be shut down until a series of Environmental Impact Studies can be completed to ensure this doesn't happen again (Superferry?)... Nevertheless....It was heartwarming to see a real person tell the truth and not hide behind a pr campaign God Bless You Richard Schuman, and our prayers for the family of Ms. Fuddy
on December 12,2013 | 07:45AM
slowroll323 wrote:
Agree. In my dealings with Richard Schuman across the years on aviation matters, I thought that he was a stand-up guy. Although I don't know the facts of this accident, only what is reported in the news, I think the pilot did an outstanding job in handling an overwhelming emergency. I also think that the aircraft, a Cessna Caravan, is a pretty sturdy aircraft when you consider the fact that it made a power-off-crash landing on open ocean and eight of the nine persons aboard survived. Thank Akua that there were not more. I certainly extend my sincere condolences to the Fuddy family. R.I.P.
on December 12,2013 | 12:15PM
KekoaBradshaw wrote:
Loretta Fuddy was a wonderful person who is remembered with aloha by all who knew her.
on December 12,2013 | 08:03AM
Bdpapa wrote:
She will be sorely missed. A person of character and integrity who was there to help others.
on December 12,2013 | 08:49AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Unfortunately, vile, evil Birthers will now use her passing as a "conspiracy" (i.e. murder).
on December 12,2013 | 02:11PM
CloudForest wrote:
Somewhat strange that this tragedy involved one of the only souls on earth that knows the real story of Mr. Sotero's birth certificate - how strange indeed .....
on December 12,2013 | 09:44AM
lee1957 wrote:
The ax grinding forum is down the hall, second door on the right.
on December 12,2013 | 10:30AM
CloudForest wrote:
Kerning - the overlapping of letters on a letter or document only possible with modern day computers. Kerning - found in multiple places on the most famous birth certificate on earth, supposedly issued prior to the development or use of any computers. Facts that can only be denied by those who would rather call people childish names than ask hard questions.
on December 12,2013 | 10:59AM
control wrote:
hard questions? Sad that deperate racists can, will, and do say anything to bring to themselves.
on December 12,2013 | 12:11PM
hanalei395 wrote:
Donald Trump and Republican Birthers are now calling her passing as "suspicious".
on December 12,2013 | 01:17PM
bobstr wrote:
I wonder why the advertiser didn't mention she validated obumers birth certificate?
on December 12,2013 | 12:57PM
hanalei395 wrote:
The Birthers are coming out of their holes.
on December 12,2013 | 01:38PM
808warriorfan wrote:
You're a sick person !!!!! GET A LIFE.....
on December 12,2013 | 06:11PM
808warriorfan wrote:
"lee1957"...GET A LIFE !!!!!!
on December 12,2013 | 06:11PM
copperwire9 wrote:
You're pathetic!
on December 12,2013 | 03:00PM
control wrote:
There are three common causes for crashes in planes this size - (1) engine problems which appears to be the case here, (2) over weight limits or (3) weight that wasn't secured and shifted in flight. Condolences to her family
on December 12,2013 | 12:02PM
thanks4reading wrote:
sounds like the pilot did a great job. He not only took actions to save 8 persons, but swam to shore to get help.
on December 12,2013 | 01:33PM
yhls wrote:
Bad reporting in general.
on December 12,2013 | 04:22PM
Poplm wrote:
How did she die?
on December 12,2013 | 08:26PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Autopsy would reveal the cause of death, however these are most likely: blunt force trauma as a result of the airplane crash. Secondary cause may be drowning.
on December 12,2013 | 10:26PM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Catastrophic Maintenance Failure, Catastrophic Pilot Error, Catastrophic Wearher Failure, Catastrophic Drug and Alcohol Failure. It is interesting that all survived except Loretta Fuddy. Is it possible that she did not survive the swim, yet survived the crash because evidence indicates all ofhers survived. In other words, STOP blaming everyone else except your company.
on December 13,2013 | 12:02AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Molokai General Hospital is associated with The Queen's Medical Center, in case anyone is thinking that MGH is a country operation.
on December 13,2013 | 12:09AM
slowroll323 wrote:
At this point, no one is blaming anyone. The accident is under investigation. All that is known is that the engine quit. Thankfully, there has been no rush to judgement by responsible persons regarding the cause of engine failure. And that's the way it should be.
on December 13,2013 | 08:27AM
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