Air ambulance crash kills three on Maui
KAHULUI, Maui — A Hawaii Air Ambulance plane crashed last night in a parking lot in Maui's main commercial district, killing all three people aboard.
The twin-engine Cessna 414 crashed in the lot of a BMW auto dealership near busy Hana Highway about 7:15 p.m. There were no survivors, said Scott Ishikawa, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
Police Sgt. Jamie Becraft said 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.
Andrew Kluger, chairman and CEO of Hawaii Air Ambulance, said the victims were all employees of the company. He identified them as:
"On behalf of our staff and crew at Hawaii Air Ambulance, our most heartfelt sympathies go out to the families of our employees in this tragic loss of such exceptional individuals," Kluger said.
The plane departed from Honolulu and was scheduled to land at Kahului Airport at 7:10 p.m. to pick up a patient, Ishikawa said.
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 nearby 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.
Kluger said he would not speculate on the cause of the crash.
"Hawaii Air Ambulance will reserve any further comments until an investigation has been concluded by the National Transportation Safety Board and those findings are made public," he said. He said the company would keep flying and providing air ambulance services.
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 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.