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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 9:36 p.m., Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Three killed in air ambulance crash on Maui

By Christie Wilson and Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writers

KAHULUI, Maui — A Hawaii Air Ambulance plane crashed tonight in a parking lot in Maui's main commercial district, killing all three people aboard.

The twin-engine Cessna 414 crashed in the parking lot of a BMW auto dealership near busy Ka'ahumanu Avenue at about 7:15 p.m. There were no survivors, said Scott Ishikawa, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

Police Sgt. Jamie Becraft said initial indications were that no one on the ground was injured.

Andrew Trumbo, manager of BMW of Maui, said the dealership had closed at 5:45 p.m. and the cleaning crew had not yet arrived.

An official with Hawaii Air Ambulance declined comment when contacted by The Advertiser, but said the company's public relations firm would be making a statement.

The twin-engine Cessna 414 was carrying a male pilot, a male nurse and a female nurse, Ishikawa said. It was scheduled to land at Kahului Airport at 7:10 p.m. to pick up a patient.

Rodger Reilly, 39, a Hawai'i Kai resident who was on Maui for an air conditioning job, said he was walking to a restaurant at the Triangle Square commercial center when he saw a plane about 500 feet off the ground that looked like it was being buffeted by wind. Its engine sounded weak, he said.

The plane banked right, circled the Kahului commercial area and hit the parking lot, Reilly said.

"There was a horrific crashing sound and an exploding ball of fire about 100 feet in the air," Reilly said. "I thought I was going to die. I thought it was going to hit me."

Other witnesses said they heard a secondary explosion. Cars in the BMW lot were damaged.

Stacey Nagata, 43, of Kahului, was sitting outside her house on Lono Avenue when she saw a small plane circling. She said its engine was sputtering.

The plane barely cleared some power lines before hitting the ground in a loud explosion that some said could be heard in Wailuku.

Patricia Mansfield, 49, of Kahului was at Maui Marketplace off Dairy Road when she saw a plane flying low. "It seemed like the pilot was trying to get the plane stable but he couldn't," Mansfield said.

A Hawaii Air Ambulance plane crashed on the Big Island on Jan. 31, 2004, killing all three aboard. The Cessna 414A crashed in stormy weather 25 miles northwest of Hilo near 'Umikoa.

Killed were pilot Ron killed Laubacher, 38, and Honolulu paramedics Joseph Daniel Villiaros, 39, and Mandy Shiraki, 47. The crew was headed to Hilo Medical Center to evacuate a patient at the time of the crash.