Hilo plane crash victim describes what happened

Michael Dowsett


A 21-year-old man says he’s lucky to be alive after the single-engine Cessna he was in crashed in Hilo.

The state Department of Transportation said the plane was executing touch-and-go maneuvers when it crashed at Hilo International Airport shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Flight student Michael Dowsett spoke to the media for the first time since it happened, accompanied by his parents and doctor.

Dowsett said it was supposed to be his last training flight before he started testing for his private pilot license.

“We took off and we were maneuvering up by Akaka Falls, just doing some polish work, making sure… I got all the points marked off perfectly in the test,” he said.

Dowsett said they flew to the airport to practice and that’s when the engine lost power.

“We were already at the end of the runway and we were maybe 50 to 100 feet off the ground and had no power and normally, if we had runway left, we would’ve simply just nosed over and we would’ve just got some airspeed up and just flared and just done our regular landing,” he said. “The problem was there was no runway in front of us anymore. It was just the houses that were out there, so the only option there, which we also practiced, was we gotta bank it hard and fast to try to get back to a safe place to land.

“We must have had at least a 45-degree angle of bank in there, because we needed to get back like now,” he continued. “I remember once we had it over, I was looking and I could actually start seeing the blades of grass already.”

Dowsett said, at that moment, he believed he was going to die.

“You hear about it in movies and TV and whatnot. I really actually genuinely did think that was it. It was so surreal, it was like a dream. I thought for sure that we were going to, that when we crashed that it was gonna be a big fire ball and that was it. I thought it was game over and then after the crash, there was fuel leaking out of the wing and into the cabin and I thought, I thought this was it.”

Dowsett said he shattered his left ankle and broke two bones in his leg. He also had lacerations, fractured his cheekbone and required stitches to his eye and knee.

Two other victims in the plane, the flight instructor and a female student pilot, were flown to the trauma center at Queen’s Medical Center.

Dowsett and his family sends them their thoughts and prayers.

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