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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 2:05 p.m., Friday, May 18, 2001

Tour plane goes down off Big Isle

By Dan Nakaso and Christie Wilson
Advertiser Staff Writers

Five people aboard a Big Island tour plane were slightly bruised but otherwise safe after their Cessna 337 "Skymaster" lost power and went into the ocean today about 100 yards off Pa'auilo on the Big Island's Hamakua coast.

The plane sent out an emergency call about 8:15 a.m. and a Big Island Fire Department helicopter crew rescued the pilot and all of the plane's passengers, the Coast Guard said.

Capt. Ted van Gelder at the Waiakea Fire/Rescue Station said the station got the call at 8:25 a.m. and sent up a helicopter to search for the plane. Five people in yellow life vests were found floating about 100 to 200 yards offshore. The Cessna was submerged in about 100 feet of water, he said.

"They were very calm for what they had just gone through," van Gelder said. "They had been prepped pretty well by the pilot."

Van Gelder said that in addition to the pilot, passengers included a couple from the Mainland and a couple from Brazil.

Van Gelder and another rescuer jumped into the water and helped two of the passengers into a net suspended from the helicopter. After being dropped on shore, the helicopter crew went back out to retrieve the second couple, and then the pilot and the two firefighters.

The pilot indicated the plane lost power, van Gelder said, and apparently decided a water landing would be safer than trying to touch down on land.