HONOLULU (AP) — When the lone engine of a small commercial plane failed, the nine people on board stayed calm as the aircraft glided toward the ocean and made a remarkably smooth belly landing, a survivor recounted Friday.
C. Phillip Hollstein Jr., a 70-year-old Kailua man, swam a half-mile in 6-foot waves to a rugged shoreline after the crash, which killed state health Director Loretta Fuddy. The others on board suffered only minor injuries.
Hollstein said the pilot, Clyde Kawasaki, expertly maneuvered the plane after the engine failed, avoiding what could have been a catastrophic impact on the water.
"He did everything right," Hollstein said. "He set it up for the best crash-landing you could do."
The engine on Makani Kai Air's 2002 Cessna Grand Caravan turboprop cut out less than a minute after takeoff from the island of Molokai on Wednesday afternoon, just as the plane was making a turn toward its destination of Honolulu, Hollstein said.
There was a "muffled bang," he said, and "then we were a glider."
"Everyone was real quiet. We hit (the water), and it was all about getting the belts off," Hollstein said. People put on life jackets and remained in the plane until it started sinking, he said.
"There wasn't panic or anything. It was very orderly. It wasn't like any of the movies or the TV shows," Hollstein said.
When Hollstein saw that everyone was out of the plane, bobbing in the water and seemingly without any major injuries, he swam for shore, guessing it took 90 minutes.
Fuddy, who gained attention after deciding to publicly release President Barack Obama's Hawaii birth certificate in 2011 to rebut claims he was not born in the United States, was clinging to the hand of her deputy, Keith Yamamoto.
Yamamoto tried to help the 65-year-old relax, according to the Rev. Patrick Killilea, who consoled Yamamoto after the crash.
"He recounted how he said he helped Loretta into her life jacket and he held her hand for some time," the priest said. "They were all floating together, and she let go and there was no response from her."