The front landing gear of a Navy P-8A Poseidon that slid off the runway at Marine Corps Base Hawaii “sort of pulverized the coral” when it came to rest — while anchors from a boom that went up around the downed plane also damaged coral 100 feet off the runway.
Kim Fuller, an aquatic biologist with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ division of aquatic resources, said DLNR divers today will continue to assess the damage to the reef after an initial review on Sunday after the plane was lifted out of the bay on “roller bags” and towed backward onto the lone base runway.
Fuller said DLNR would like to take a week to further assess damage, but “I would say we’ve seen the majority of the worst damage.”
The main goal today is to return some of the larger broken “finger coral” pieces to their previous positions in the hope they will regrow, Fuller said. Others may have to be re-positioned with epoxy, she said at an early morning press conference on the base.
The boom that Marines installed within 30 minutes around the plane was anchored at 15 points and some of the anchors also damaged coral, Fuller said.
A threatened green sea turtle was found dead between two of three booms on Friday and had “a lot of tumors on the skin. It did not appear to be a healthy turtle,” said Navy Rear Adm. Kevin Lenox, who is in charge of the recovery of the P-8A.
The plane skidded off the runway two weeks ago while trying to land in rainy weather and ended up in water no deeper than 30 feet.
The mishap caused fixed-wing aircraft operations to cease.
Col. Jeremy Beaven, commander of Marine Corps Base Hawaii, said he will be flexible in allowing DLNR to do its work.
“I have a fair amount of latitude,” Beaven said, “to support the time they need.”
He plans to give DLNR “adequate time so they don’t rush.”