[NOTE: County officials rescheduled the press conference listed below to 11:45am today.]
County of Maui officials are reporting that three people died and three others badly injured last night when a twin-engine charter aircraft crashed shortly after taking off from Lanai Airport. Names of the deceased and injured haven’t been officially released yet, but County of Maui Communications Director Rod Antone said in an email that the county had chartered the flight and that two of the dead were Planning Department officials. Two other Planning Department officials and an attorney with the County Corporation Counsel’s office were seriously injured. The pilot was also apparently killed.
In this story on the crash posted late last night, The Maui News reported that neither Planning Director William Spence nor Deputy Director Michelle McLean were on the plane. Hawaii Public Radio reported this morning that survivors were air-lifted to Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu.
According to Antone’s email, the passengers on the flight, which was chartered through Maui Air–had been Lanai for the Feb. 26 Lanai Planning Commission hearing, which ended around 8:30pm. The flight departed Lanai Airport at about 9:05pm, Antone stated, and the crash took place shortly thereafter. At about 9:23pm, one of the survivors called 911 and reported the crash. The plane went down about a mile southwest of the airport in an area known locally as Miki Basin. There is no word yet on what caused the crash, but Antone said that investigators with the Federal Aviation Adminstration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) “have been notified of the crash.”
“When fire crews got to the scene they had to put out a small brushfire ignited by flames from the wreckage,” Antone stated in his news release. “The man who called 911, the deputy attorney for Corporation Counsel, said he had pulled two of his co-workers away from the fire as best he could because they could not move on their own. All three survivors suffered burn injuries.”
County officials have not yet released the names of those injured and killed on the charter flight, but Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa will hold a 10:30am press conference this morning to discuss the crash.
According to Maui Air’s website, the charter service (which also runs under the name Volcano Air) has been operating since 1993. It operates “Three meticulously maintained twin-engine, air-conditioned, 10 seat, Piper Chieftain airplanes” and boasts of “a perfect safety record.”
NTSB records show that this is the third small plane crash in Maui County in the last four months. On Dec. 11, 2013, a Cessna 208B operated by Makani Kai Air crashed shortly after departing Kalaupapa Airport on Molokai, killing passenger Loretta Fuddy, the state Health Director. On Nov. 4, 2013, another Cessna 208B, this time operated by Mokulele Airlines, made an emergency landing on Pi’ilani Highway in Wailea shortly after departing Kahului Airport. There were no injuries in the Mokulele Air incident.
Photo of Piper Chieftan similar to that involved in last night’s crash: Alec Wilson/Wikimedia Commons