Three men are lucky to be alive after their plane crashed in Mapunapuna.
The call came in at around 1:15 p.m. across from Moanalua Gardens.
According to Allen Kenitzer with the Federal Aviation Administration, a Piper PA-28 crashed under unknown circumstances.
Witnesses say it appeared the pilot did all he could to avoid the buildings and cars before crashing under the Moanalua Freeway bridge.
Mackenzie was helping customers at Servco Toyota when he heard the plane fly overhead.
“This one was a lot louder than usual, so we looked up and it was a lot lower than usual,” Young said. “You could actually see the plane going back and forth, so you knew something was wrong.”
Witnesses tell KHON2 they were stunned to see the single-engine plane hurtle, then crash onto the rocks in Moanalua Stream and burst into flames.
“He was going straight down,” said witness Arona Uta. “I know he was aiming for going on the river, but he didn’t make it to the river. He make it to all the rocks over there under the freeway.”
“I thought I was dreaming,” said Harley Bone. “I blinked a few times, and no, this is real. I just ran over there. It’s just like you see in the movies. It’s crazy.”
Bone was one of the first to arrive at the crash site and immediately started pulling people from the plane.
“I just ran full speed to get over there,” he said. “The plane was already on fire. There were three occupants in there. All three were conscious. One had a pretty good gash up by his eye. They were bleeding out of their mouths, all three of them, but they were able to move their bodies by themselves a little bit.
“I pulled all three out and as soon as I got the third guy out, there was a guy (Good Samaritan) right there. He might have been behind me, helping the other guy while I was pulling them out. I was just focusing directly on the plane itself, the people in the plane still — got one guy out, got another guy out, got another guy out, kind of thing,” Bone said. “The fire was getting bigger and bigger, and the smoke was getting more. It was kind of hard to breathe over there, honestly.”
“We just had to keep asking them if they were okay,” Young said. “One of the guys was mentioning that the plane lost power.”
“He just started pulling them out and I just heard bystanders yelling, ‘Get ’em out, get ’em out before it explodes,’ and sure enough, as soon as he yanked them out, he had them on standby and the firefighters started coming at the same time and it exploded,” said Tasha Nunies, who works nearby, “and then all the black smoke was in the air. It smoked out our whole warehouse. It smoked the whole side of our building.”
The Honolulu Fire Department says it took 15 minutes to extinguish the fire.
Emergency Medical Services district chief Colin Wong says the three men, who are in their 20s, were hospitalized in serious condition.
“In my 31 years in this business, it’s extremely rare to have a plane crash in urban Honolulu,” Wong said. “Everybody was fortunate today to come out of this with serious injuries, but nothing critical.”
Had the plane crashed just a few feet higher, witnesses say the outcome could have been much different.
“I give mad props to the pilot for controlling that plane. Ten feet higher and he could have crashed into the highway,” Young said.
“I’m happy they’re alive. Whoever the pilot was, great job. You saved yourself. You saved two other people,” Bone said.
The FAA and the NTSB will investigate the crash. Police officers are looking to see if surveillance cameras at nearby businesses captured the crash or the moments leading up to it.
Crews with the Department of Transportation will inspect the structural integrity of the freeway. The U.S. Coast Guard may send a pollution response team in the event that fuel or wreckage from the plane pollutes the waterway.
According to FAA’s plane registry, the aircraft is a Piper Cherokee that can seat six people.
It’s a fixed-wing, single-engine plane originally built in 1971 and registered to Jahn Mueller, whose name is listed as the owner of Aircraft Maintenance and Flight School Hawaii.