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Lanai crash investigation reveals long debris field

    NTSB investigator Andrew Swick at the site of the wreckage of the plane that crashed on Lanai on Feb. 26.
    The twin-engine Piper Navajo Chieftain was destroyed by fire after it crashed at 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 26.

An examination by the investigators of a small commercial plane that crashed in a former Lanai pineapple field last month field revealed a 640-foot-long debris field, according to a preliminary report by National Transportation Safety Board.

The rented twin-engine Piper Navajo Chieftain was destroyed by fire after it crashed at 9:30 p.m. Feb. 26 killing Maui Air pilot Richard Rooney and two Maui Planning Department employees, Kathleen Kern, 50, and Tremaine Balberdi, 53.

Three Maui county employees survived. However, Douglas Miller, a planner with the planning department, and Mark King, a geographic information systems analyst with the department, suffered critical injuries and are still hospitalized.

Deputy Corporation Counsel James Giroux, who suffered serious injuries, was released. He is credited with pulling his colleagues from the burning wreckage.

The preliminary NTSB report released on Tuesday does not include any determination of contributing factors or causes of the crash. Typically, it takes the NTSB months to come up with a probable cause for accidents.

The 640-foot debris field stretched from the first point of contact to an engine component near the main wreckage.

The area where the plane hit the ground left a ground scar that stretched about 160 feet in length and about a foot wide.

The pilot had filed a "visual flight rules" flight plan, meaning he could take off without the help of plane instrumentation, the NTSB report said. The plane had just taken off for a flight to Kahului.

Maui County had chartered the flight to take the employees home after an evening meeting in Lanai.

Charring vegetation was observed about 100 feet down from the first point of impact and fanned out on either side of the debris path for about 260 feet; it was about 50 feet in width at its widest point, the report said.

The majority of the wreckage debris was found in the last two-thirds of the debris field.

The crash site was in a remote area near the airport known as Miki Basin, which was reached only after a private contractor had used a bulldozer to create a makeshift road.

The Lanai incident was the second crash of a small plane within three months.

On Dec. 11, state Health Director Loretta Fuddy died after surviving the crash of a Makani Kai Cessna Grand Caravan just after it took off after an official visit to Kalaupapa.

An autopsy, conducted by Dr. Lindsey Harle, said Fuddy, 65, died of acute cardiac arrhythmia due to hyperventilation.

Fuddy was one of nine people who were on board the Cessna that crashed into the ocean after take-off about a half-mile from Kalaupapa and the only passenger to die.

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