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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, July 25, 2002

No engine trouble on downed Cessna

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui Bureau

A federal investigator found no mechanical problems with the engine of the small plane that crashed in East Maui July 13, killing Maui homebuilder Steve Betsill and three relatives.

Tealeye Cornejo of the National Transportation Safety Board said yesterday that the engine appeared capable of producing power during an examination in a Kahului Airport hangar last week.

The spark plugs appeared consistent with normal operation, no discrepancies were found in the cylinder combustion chambers and the engine operated normally by manual rotation, according to her preliminary report on the crash.

The report, released by the federal agency yesterday, also placed the time of the crash at 4:11 p.m., about two hours after the Cessna Cardinal 177 departed Kahului Airport on a private sightseeing tour of the island.

The pilot was Betsill, vice president of sales and marketing for Betsill Brothers Construction Inc., a company he and his three brothers owned. The passengers were his cousin Jerry Betsill of Fort Worth, Texas, and Jerry Betsill's 10-year-old daughter, Emma, and niece Meredith Fenimore, 11.

According to the report, no flight plan was filed with the Federal Aviation Administration office, but weather was good.

Cornejo said she also found the battery disconnected from the plane's emergency locator transmitter, the device that sends out distress signals after crashes. Search crews, who reported not being able to detect such signals, didn't find the wreckage until the morning of July 15.

Cornejo said there's still much work to be done in the investigation, and a final report naming the cause isn't expected for at least a year.