UPDATE: Hawaii Health Director dies in plane crash off Molokai
Molokai has some of the most treacherous seas in the world, so when a Cessna Grand Caravan owned by Makani Kai Air crashed one mile off of Kalaupapa, Molokai, at 3:27 p.m. on Wednesday on its way from Molokai to Oahu, eight passengers and pilot were forced to try to escape the wreckage and brave large surf and dangerous conditions until help arrived.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 8 people were rescued.
However, Maui County police confirmed Loretta Fuddy, 65, who is the director of the state Department of Health, did not survive.
Deputy Health Director Keith Yamamoto was rescued.
Both were there on official duties as part of an annual visit to the remote North side community where a few remaining patients with Hansen's Disease live.
Today, Kalaupapa is a national park managed by the state Department of Health where a few patients remain. Patients with leprosy were first exiled there in 1866.
In a statement issued Wednesday, the Coast Guard said that after the crash was reported, the Coast Guard launched two MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aircrews and one HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point on Oahu.
Coast Guard Cutters Ahi and Galveston Island, home-ported in Honolulu, and two 45-foot Response-Boat Medium crews from Station Maui were also dispatched to the scene.
Rescue swimmers from the Dolphin helicopters were deployed, rescuing three passengers in the water. They were transported by Dolphin helicopter crews to Honolulu for emergency medical services.
Maui Fire Rescue rescued additional passengers.
Two people were transported by a Makani Kai company plane to Honolulu and the rest of the passengers remained on Molokai.
Sen. J. Kalani English, who represents the island of Molokai, said he was deeply saddened to hear of the plane crash and extended his most heartfelt sympathy and concerns to those who were aboard the Makani Kai aircraft.
“On behalf of the State of Hawaii, I offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of the individual who lost their life today.”
"As we continue to monitor the situation, our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of those who were on board, and with the people of Molokai.”
Senate President Donna Mercado Kim said Fuddy embodied the very sprit and ethos of public service, dedicating her life to the health and wellbeing of all of Hawaii’s people.
“Appointed to Director of the Department of Health in 2011, Loretta brought with her over 35 years of experience in health and human services. Actively involved in improving health care options both locally and nationally, her commitment to public health was undisputed,” Kim said. “Under her leadership, she fostered a transparent and collaborative environment, engaging with lawmakers, community members, health care providers, and social service organizations.“
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa extended his condolences to the Fuddy's family, including her sister, who is a part of the Maui County family and works as a Maui Police Department Chaplain on Molokai.
"We are extremely saddened to hear the news," said Mayor Alan Arakawa. "Loretta's life was dedicated to improving public health in the community and the entire state suffers from this loss," Arakawa said. "At the same time we are very grateful for the efforts of our men and women of the Maui fire and police departments, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard. They managed to get the rest of the crash survivors to shore safely and we thank them for this holiday miracle."
Fuddy, who served as acting director since January 2011 until becoming director in March 2011, was before that the Chief of the Family Health Services Division for the department. She holds degrees in sociology, social work, and public health from the University of Hawai'i and Johns Hopkins University.
The governor's office, when appointing her, said Fuddy was a recognized leader in the public health field having served as Chair of the Hawai'i Public Health Association, President of the Association of State & Territorial Public Health Association, Treasurer and Secretary of the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs. She is a recipient of a various awards including the Hawaii Outstanding Advocate for Children and Youth, and the DOH Sustained Superior and Exemplary Performance Award. Raised in Kaimuki, she is a graduate of the Sacred Hearts Academy.
Fuddy made headlines nationally two years ago when she issued a waiver request that allowed President Barack Obama to obtain certified copies of his birth certificate, which were signed by his mother, a local registrar and the delivery doctor.
“Our hearts are broken. Loretta was deeply loved and respected. She was selfless, utterly dedicated, and committed to her colleagues in the Department of Health and to the people of Hawaii. Her knowledge was vast; her counsel and advice always given from her heart as much as from her storehouse of experience," Abercrombie said. “We send our best thoughts to her family and will do all in our power to reflect her professionalism, her love of Hawaii and the high standard she set for herself and all of us.”
The National Transportation and Safety Board will be in charge of investigating the circumstances surrounding the crash, according to a statement from Maui county officials.
"I have spoken with the pilot and the initial report was on his departure from Kalaupapa, coming back to Honolulu, as he was taking off there was a catastrophic engine failure," Schuman told KHON 2. "He described hearing a large bang and he performed the emergency procedure he is trained to do."
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