No fuel was in plane when it fell

The small aircraft that made an emergency landing in Waiehu on Sunday did not have any fuel onboard when it fell into the ocean Tuesday while it was being ferried away from the site by a helicopter, according to a Maui Coast Guard official.

Eric Stahl, supervisor of the Coast Guard’s Maui safety team, said Wednesday that his agency is investigating potential environmental pollution from the dropping of the Piper Cherokee by a helicopter into the ocean off Waiehu.

His investigation so far has indicated that the plane did not have any fuel in its 48-gallon tank and did not fall in the environmentally sensitive area north of Waiehu Beach, he said.

The Coast Guard investigation is continuing, Stahl said.

At 5:38 p.m. Sunday, the Piper Cherokee made an emergency landing about 50 yards from Waiehu Beach, down Lower Waiehu Beach Road. The pilot and three Maui tennis players survived the landing without injury. The aircraft, on a flight from Honolulu to Maui, had declared a mayday and disappeared from the screens of air traffic controllers, according to Federal Aviation Administration reports.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a Pacific Helicopters chopper was airlifting the plane from the landing site when it “ran into a problem and dropped the aircraft about a mile offshore,” said Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the FAA Pacific Division, on Wednesday.

The FAA is looking at the circumstances behind the decision to drop the aircraft and planned to speak with the chopper pilot Wednesday, he said.

A call to company officials at Pacific Helicopters on Wednesday was not returned.

Gregor said the decision on what to do with the plane that sunk into the ocean is up to the owner and the owner’s insurance company.

Mokulele Iki LLC is listed as the registered owner of the plane, and its office is located at 3440 Kehala Drive in Kihei, according to the FAA registry. State records show that the company is registered to Howard Mendelsohn. Attempts to reach both the Mokulele Iki office and Mendelsohn on Wednesday were not successful.

The FAA also is looking into the cause of the emergency landing.