Two people who were among the 11 occupants killed in the June 21 skydiving plane crash at Dillingham Airfield boarded the twin-engine aircraft at the last minute, according to a preliminary report released today by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The pilot, three tandem parachute instructors and their three customers, two camera operators plus two solo jumpers who decided to join the flight at the last minute died in the crash shortly after takeoff from the airfield in Mokuleia. The crash occurred at 6:22 p.m.
The Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office has identified the 11 crash victims as Larry Lemaster, 50, of Hawaii; James Lisenbee, 48, of Hawaii; Jerome Renck, 42, of Hawaii; Casey Williamson, 29, of Hawaii, Joshua Drablos, 27, U.S. military member of Virginia stationed in Hawaii; Nikolas Glebov, 28, of St. Paul, Minn.; Daniel Herndon, 35, of Hawaii; Michael Martin, 32, of Hawaii; Jordan Tehero, 23, of Hawaii; Ashley Weikel, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Bryan Weikel, 27, of Colorado Springs, Calif.
Lemaster, Lisenbee, Williamson, Herndon, Martin and Renck, described as the pilot, worked for Oahu Parachute Center.
The Beechcraft 65-A90 plane operated by the parachute company was the fourth of five parachute jump flights scheduled for that day, the report said. The first two flights took place between 9 and 9:30 a.m. and the third departed at about 5:30 p.m. on a “sunset” flight.
A parachute instructor at the Oahu Parachute Center observed the passengers board the flight and watched the plane as it taxied to the end of the runway.
“He could hear the engines during the initial ground roll and stated that the sound was normal, consistent with the engines operating at high power,” the report said.
When the plane came into his view as it headed toward him, the aircraft was at an altitude of 150 to 200 feet above the ground and appeared to be turning. “He could see its belly, with the top of the cabin facing the ocean to the north. The airplane then struck the ground in a nose-down attitude, and a fireball erupted.”
The aircraft crashed near the airport perimeter fence.
Investigators are looking into weather and runway conditions, the pilot’s logbook and training records as well as the weight and balance of the aircraft.
NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy has said the plane is outfitted for 13 people.
“Weight and balance has a factor in the safety of these operations and that’s a calculation that needs to be made before a plane is operated, and that is something we’ll be looking at,” Homendy said during a news briefing held in Honolulu days after the crash.
The plane was owned by N80896 LLC and operated by Oahu Parachute Center.
NTSB investigators are expected to take 18 to 24 months to determine the probable cause of the deadly crash.
The crash was described as the deadliest civilian aircraft accident in the U.S. since a 2011 Reno Air Show crash that killed the pilot and 10 spectators.