Three people are dead and three others were injured after a Maui County chartered plane crashed on Lanai Wednesday night. The incident happened just before 9:30 p.m. about one mile off the airport.
Maui County officials say the deceased were identified as Maui Air pilot Richard Rooney and two Department of Planning employees, Tremaine Balberdi and Kathleen Kern. “We lost two of our own last night,” said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa at a press conference Thursday. “One of them was a long-time employee who worked with us for decades. The other was a bright young planner who was dedicated to her job in serving the public.”
Three survivors were airlifted to the Queens Medical Center on Oahu after the crash with burn injuries. Two other planning employees, Doug Miller and Mark King, were last listed in critical condition and James Giroux, deputy attorney for Corporation Counsel, was initially listed in serious condition. He has since been released from the hospital.
Authorities say the group had been on Lanai earlier that evening to staff a Lanai Planning Commission Meeting which was scheduled to run from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Maui County chartered a return flight on Maui Air which left at around 9:05 p.m. Emergency dispatchers received a 911 call from a man who said he had been in a plane crash at about 9:30 p.m.
Maui County fire and police crews responded to the crash area, known as Miki Basin, located about a mile southeast from Lanai Airport. Fire officials say when fire crews got to the scene, they had to put out a small brushfire ignited by flames from the wreckage. “There was a small brushfire, I believe caused from flames from the wreckage,” Maui County spokesperson Rod Antone said. “Fire crews were on scene and put it out and got the survivors out of there.”
“(There was a) mangled airplane and it was on fire,” said rescuer Joe Dickson. “We got there when the fire trucks got there too, so we tried to ask if they needed help getting in and out because the roads are kind of busted up.”
“I was stunned,” said rescuer Michael Salomon. “(We were) the first ones there and (we tried) to keep our distance because of the flames. The terrain over there was just crazy to get to.”
Officials say Giroux, who made the 911 call, 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.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation and Safety Board are investigating the crash. The wreckage of the Maui Air twin-engine Piper PA 31 plane has been moved to a secure facility. A preliminary report is expected mid-March.
Watch: Maui mayor’s office press conference – Feb. 27, 2014
Watch: Family mourns Maui woman who died in plane crash – Feb. 27, 2014
Read: Lawmakers react to deadly plane crash on Lanai – Feb. 27, 2014
Watch: Lanai crash victims mourned, survivor lauded a hero – Feb. 27, 2014
Read: Plane that crashed on Lanai had clean record – Feb. 27, 2014
Read: Why inter-island commutes and not teleconferences? – Feb. 27, 2014
Watch: Family of Lanai crash victim Kathleen Kern speaks out – Feb. 28, 2014
Watch: Investigators sift through clues to pinpoint cause of Lanai crash – Feb. 28, 2014
Read: Maui Air releases statement on deadly Lanai plane crash – Mar. 4, 2014