Two rescued from ocean after plane goes down
HONOLULU – The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a man and woman in the ocean off Hawaii island on Friday, nearly a day after the plane they were in disappeared from radar.
“What a way to celebrate aloha Friday,” Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle, said of the relief in finding the two alive. “We all had big smiles on our faces in the office when we heard the news.”
A helicopter crew hoisted them out of the water at about 11:30 a.m. Friday, Molle said. They were a mile and a half offshore near Kona, the Coast Guard said.
Paramedics met them at Kona airport and treated them for minor injuries, Molle said. The Coast Guard identified them as pilot David McMahon, 26, and Sidney Uemoto, in her 20s.
There was no immediate word on the twin-engine Piper PA23 aircraft, whose registered owner is Time Machine LLC of Kailua-Kona, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. The plane’s pilot radioed an air emergency at 3:15 p.m. Thursday. After that, air-traffic controllers lost contact with the pilot and the plane no longer appeared on radar, the Coast Guard said.
Ian Gregor of the FAA told The Maui News that the pilot reported engine problems before ditching in the ocean.
The plane was traveling to Kona from Maui, and its last known position was approximately 25 miles northwest of Kona, the Coast Guard said. Gregor said that the plane’s original departure point was John Rodgers Field, or Kalaeloa Airport, on Oahu.
On Friday morning, a visiting New Zealand air force P3 plane spotted debris about 50 miles northwest of Kona. The Coast Guard sent a ship to the scene to see if the debris was from the missing plane.
A tour helicopter later spotted wreckage and reported it to the Coast Guard, Molle said. A Coast Guard helicopter went to the wreckage location and spotted two people in the water wearing life jackets, she said.
“They had been attempting to swim to shore through the night,” Molle said.
It’s not yet clear what happened to them.
“A lot of times these cases don’t really end well,” Molle said. “When we have a happy ending what more could you ask for?”
McMahon’s father, Richard McMahon, summed up his feelings: “Big-time relieved.” He said he was on his way from Oahu to the Big Island on Friday to see his son, a commercial pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He said his son and friend rented a plane for additional flying hours for his commercial pilot’s license.
The New Zealand plane is in Hawaii to participate in Rim of the Pacific military exercises. The U.S. Navy also joined in the search.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the crash, said Gregor. The plane was 59 years old, manufactured in 1957, and had an engine airworthiness date of July 1957, according to the FAA, based on the aircraft’s tail number. It had Lycoming 0-320 series engines.
The aircraft had a valid certification, which was issued in June 2013 and expires in June 2019.
* The Maui News contributed to this report.