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2 killed in crash of light sport aircraft off Kauai

By Star-Advertiser Staff

LAST UPDATED: 5:33 p.m. HST, May 17, 2011

Two people were killed today in the crash of a light sport aircraft into waters off Kauai’s north shore, officials said.

Both victims were male, Kauai County Fire Chief Robert Westerman said in a news release. Officials were withholding their names until relatives are notified.

The Kauai Police Department confirmed the aircraft was owned by Kauai Aerosports.

The Coast Guard reported the crash to police at 10:53 a.m. According to a preliminary report, a tour boat found the two bodies along with aircraft wreckage about 100 yards offshore Honopu Beach at Na Pali Coast State Park. They recovered the victims, who were described as unresponsive.

A pilot of Kauai Aerosports and a student were aboard the aircraft when it crashed, said Gerry Charlebois, owner of Birds in Paradise, a powered-glider company.

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. issued a statement: "We are all saddened by this tragedy and our hearts go out to the families of the victims. We are grateful to those who assisted in the recovery of the victims and will stand ready to assist investigators as they determine the cause of this terrible accident."

Kauai Aerosports operates out of Port Allen Airport on Kauai’s south shore. Its website advertises “powered hang gliding” flights of 60 minutes for $235 and 90 minutes for $345.

It was the third fatal crash of a light sport aircraft — also known as powered gliders, microlights or trikes — in the past 14 months, and the second on Kauai this year.

On Feb. 15 two people were killed when a powered glider operated by Big Sky Hawaii crashed off Kauai’s south shore. Killed were Jim Gaither, owner of Big Sky Kauai, a powered-glider flight school, and passenger Kim Buergel, 49, a visitor from Spokane, Wash.

Witnesses told investigators in the February crash that they saw a powered glider maneuvering near the edge of a cliff on Kauai before it plunged into the ocean last month, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board issued in March.

After the aircraft maneuvered near the edge of the cliff, one witness said the aircraft pulled up and immediately crashed into the ocean, according to the NTSB. The powered glider sank in 50 feet of water. The aircraft was an Airborne Windsport Edge XT-912L.

On April 21, 2010 two people died when a microlight aircraft crashed and sank in Kealakekua Bay. The victims were pilot Tedd Robert Hecklin, 38, owner of Tedd's Flying Adventures in Kailua-Kona, and passenger Kathryn Grace Moran, 37, of Kailua-Kona.

In December 2010 a Big Sky Kauai aircraft was damaged substantially, but no one was hurt, when the pilot made a precautionary landing on a golf course near Poipu, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

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