Shortly after takeoff from Kalaupapa Airport, a Makani Kai Air flight crashed in the water this afternoon killing one of the nine people on board.
Apparently, multiple sources have told Hawaii News Now that Loretta Fuddy, director of the state Department of Health was killed in the small plane crash. Deputy DOH Director Keith Yamamoto was also on the plane.
The Federal Aviation Administration reported that the Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft took off at 3:35 p.m. Responding about ten minutes later were Molokai firefighters, the Maui Fire Department’s Air-1 helicopter and the Coast Guard.
Eight people were found in the water with life vests on about a half mile northwest of Kalaupapa, according to Lee Mainaga of the MFD. The ninth person swam to shore.
Three of the crash victims were taken to Oahu, two declined treatment and are staying in Kalaupapa and three were airlifted by helicopter to topside where they were taken to Molokai General Hospital.
One eyewitness to the rescue operation, Jeannine Rossa of Molokai, said that she saw a rescuer jump out of a helicopter and into the water where three or four people were bunched together.
“We saw the fire helicopter airlift people one by one in the dangling basket (containing one rescuer and one crash victim) and deposit them gently on the beach,” wrote Rossa. “We saw a Coast Guard plane flying in a grid to look for scattered people; indeed, one person was much nearer to shore than the others, so he or she must have tried to swim to get help.”
“I feel really sad and small about the person who did not make it,” Rossa added in her email. “We all fly those small planes all the time. I always quietly check the life jacket just in case.”
On topside Molokai, police blocked the upper part of Kalae Highway to clear access for ambulances.
It was also reported by a source on Molokai that a Makani Kai flight scheduled to leave Oahu for Molokai this morning was delayed for two-and-a-half hours because of mechanical problems. Makani Kai has not yet returned phone calls to confirm this information.