HONOLULU (AP) — A skydiving plane in Hawaii went up in flames just after takeoff and then exploded as it hit the ground, killing the pilot, two instructors and two tandem jumpers, fire officials and a witness said.
Investigators reviewed the burned-out wreckage of the single-engine plane in a field just outside a regional airport on the island of Kauai. Cisco Campos was fishing nearby Monday and told news outlets that the engine sounded strange after the plane left the runway.
He told Hawaii News Now that it looked like the plane was trying to go back to the airport when it caught fire and then “everything exploded” as it crashed.
“Something must have been wrong with the engine,” he said, adding that as it tried to land again, the plane was heading into the wind.
Four of the victims died at the scene, and one died at a hospital, officials said. Their names have not been released, and autopsies will be conducted this week.
“By the time I got there, the plane had been burned pretty bad,” Kauai Fire Chief Robert Westerman said.
The crash on a dirt road ignited a small brush fire that firefighters extinguished soon afterward.
The group was believed to have been part of a tour operated by SkyDive Kauai, firefighters said. The company is listed in state documents as a trade name for D&J Air Adventures, the registered owner of the Cessna 182H, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
SkyDive Kauai President David Timko said he didn’t have any comment because the crash is under investigation. But he offered his condolences to the families of those who died.
The National Transportation Safety Board and FAA will investigate the cause of the crash.
A few hours later, another small plane crashed into the water off the coast of Oahu. Lifeguards brought two people to shore Monday, and one went to a hospital, Honolulu Fire Department Capt. David Jenkins said.
The other person aboard wasn’t injured, Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokeswoman Shayne Enright said.
Twenty visitors died in aircraft crashes in Hawaii from 2005 to 2014, including one skydiver, state Department of Health data show. The others were killed in plane, helicopter and light sport aircraft crashes. Over the same period, 24 residents were killed in air crashes, including four skydivers.
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