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Kauai aircraft wreckage found

  • COURTESY BRIAN HOWELL
    Divers recovered the wreckage of this Edge XT-912-L powered glider from 50 feet of water about a mile and a half east of Kauai's Port Allen Harbor.
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Divers have recovered the wreckage of the powered glider that crashed off Kauai, killing the pilot and his passenger.

The light-sport aircraft was recovered at about 11 a.m. Wednesday from waters off Port Allen Harbor, according to Jim Struhsaker, senior air safety investigator of the National Transportation Safety Board. The wreckage was found at a depth of 50 feet and about a mile and a half east of the harbor.

Jim Gaither, owner of Big Sky Kauai, and his passenger, Kim Buergel of Spokane, Wash., died in the crash Feb. 15. A kayaker reported the downed aircraft at 11:41 a.m. that day.

About 70 personnel from the Coast Guard, Kauai Fire Department, Ocean Safety Bureau, Department of Land and Natural Resources and Kauai Police Department conducted an extensive search. Gaither, 55, and Buergel, 49, were found the following day when Kauai fire personnel used sonar to scan the ocean floor.

Divers faced challenges of heavy rainfall and a surge of 3- to 4-foot waves to recover the wreckage, including the engine. Visibility during the recovery dropped from 100 feet to eight to 10 feet. The aircraft, described as an Edge XT-912-L with tail number N29EP, is being held at a Civil Air Patrol hangar in Lihue.

Struhsaker said he plans to talk to witnesses and contact the aircraft manufacturer, Airborne Windsports Ltd. A preliminary report on the crash is expected to be completed in a week.

On Dec. 22 an Apollo AS-III aircraft operated by Big Sky Kauai made a hard landing at the Poipu golf course on a morning flight from Port Allen. The two people aboard were not injured. The NTSB is investigating that incident.

 

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