Airline officer doesn’t know crash cause

An officer of Maui Air, the company whose plane crashed last week on Lanai, killing the pilot and two county workers, said Tuesday that she doesn’t know what happened to cause the crash and is fully cooperating with authorities investigating the incident.

“I know the public wants information and they deserve to know what happened, but at this time, I do not know what happened. Maui Air is cooperating fully with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) to understand what took place,” said Sheila Magers, the ex-wife and business partner of Richard “Dick” Rooney, the pilot who died in the crash.

Magers said she and 66-year-old Rooney divorced in December but remained close and continued to run the company together.

“I lost the man I loved and worked with for 27 years,” she said in a statement to The Maui News on Tuesday morning.

“This is a very difficult time for all. We are all grieving. Families either lost their loved ones or they are in the hospital,” she said. “Our prayers are for them. Please pray for a speedy and complete recovery for the three men that got out of the plane and for the families of everyone involved.”

A preliminary report on the crash is likely to be released next week, as federal investigators wrapped up an on-site investigation Monday, said NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson.

The plane’s engines were recovered last week from the 500-foot-long debris field at the crash site.

On Tuesday, plane crash survivor county Deputy Corporation Counsel James Giroux was recovering from burns at the Straub Clinic & Hospital on Oahu. He was transferred there after staying at The Queen’s Medical Center, also on Oahu, several days after the crash.

At last report, the other two survivors, Maui County planner Doug Miller with the Long Range Planning Division and Mark King with Geographic Information Systems in the Long Range Planning Division were still at Queen’s Medical Center in critical condition.

Queen’s Medical Center and Maui County officials said they were not releasing information about the victims out of respect for the families’ wishes.

Also killed in the Feb. 26 crash on Lanai was 50-year-old county long-range planner Kathleen Kern and 52-year-old Planning Department secretary Tremaine Balberdi.

The women and Rooney were killed in the crash reported at 9:23 p.m. in an area 1 mile southwest of Lanai Airport. The Piper Chieftain twin-engine plane had been chartered by Maui County. It had just taken off from Lanai Airport and was heading to Kahului Airport with five county employees, who had staffed a Lanai Planning Commission meeting that evening.

Giroux called 911 to report the crash. He had pulled two other passengers from the plane that caught on fire after the crash. Giroux, Miller and King were flown to The Queen’s Medical Center, where they were hospitalized and being treated for second- and third-degree burns.

Friends of Miller on Maui are “hoping and praying” that their friend will recover. They say he is a warm and friendly guy who was an avid Argentine tango and swing dancer.

“The dance community has been in shock, and everyone that has known Doug thought he was a great guy and a good friend. We have sent him a few words wishing for his recovery and healing, and hoping his family has some comfort in this tough time,” said Mark Unemori, whose wife, Tanya Somday Unemori, owns Sumek Dance Studio in Wailuku.

Mark Unemori said in an email that he and his wife have known Doug for several months and that he had taken a few classes to “brush up” on what he already knew as well as learn a few new things.

“In a lot of ways he was a dancers’ dancer; already skilled in various types of dance technique, but loved to continue learning and growing in any way he could,” wrote Mark Unemori, who also is a dancer instructor and engineer.

“We are all hoping and praying that he will recover in due time, and that someday he will be able to dance again.”

* Staff Writer Eileen Chao and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtan and Lila Fujimoto can be reached at