WAILEA - A single-engine Mokulele Airlines plane with 10 people aboard turned Piilani Highway into a makeshift runway, making an emergency landing safely in the northbound lane on the normally busy South Maui thoroughfare Monday night.
"By the grace of God, there were no cars on the road at that time," said Adam Burke, who lives in a condominium off Piilani Highway, noting that there always are cars on the road.
"I can't believe they found this puka between the power lines," he added.
"I didn't think it was real," said John Biegel, 11, who lives below the Wailea Fire Station and had come up to the highway to see the plane with his mother and brothers.
Firefighters got a call at about 7 p.m. of a possible plane crash, said Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga on Monday evening. Units from the nearby Wailea Fire Station found the plane intact about 50 yards south of the Piilani Highway-Kilohana Drive intersection.
He said the airplane, departing from Kahului Airport to the Big Island, experienced engine trouble and made an emergency landing on the highway that runs through South Maui parallel to the ocean. He said the plane landed in the northbound lane of Piilani Highway, facing in the Kahului direction.
A single-engine Mokulele Airlines plane departed from Kahului Airport and was headed to the Big Island when the plane apparently had engine trouble and landed on Piilani Highway in South Maui. Ten people were aboard. No injuries were reported.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
More than a hundred South Maui residents crowded around the single-engine plane and on the hills above Piilani Highway, many taking pictures.
The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photo
All 10 people aboard the Cessna Grand Caravan - eight passengers and two pilots - were safe, he said.
Ron Hansen, Mokulele Airlines chief executive officer, said Monday evening at about 7:45 that he had just been notified of the incident. What he knew was that the engine had failed, that the aircraft had landed and that everyone was safe.
James Flynn of Wailea, who caught a glimpse of the plane as it headed to Piilani Highway, confirmed possible engine trouble. He said he knew "something wasn't right" when he saw the plane approaching about 100 feet above the ground from his Wailea Fairway Villas home.
"I could hear sputtering as it was coming, a duk, duk, duk sputtering noise," he said.
A friend of Burke's said his mother was driving down Piilani Highway when "this thing dropped down right in front of her."
"She watched it land from behind," he said.
David Blevins of Wailuku was making a left turn from Kilohana Drive onto Piilani Highway after barbecuing with friends at Kamaole Beach Park III when he saw "two big giant lights on either side of the highway."
"They almost looked like checkpoints," he said. "(After) I made the turn (onto Piilani Highway) the lights went off and then went back on."
"I must have . . . (turned) right after it landed," he said.
Yvonne Biegel, who was reading in bed with her sons John, Koenig and Chas, heard about the plane landing near their home from a friend through Instagram. They went up to see the scene.
There were more than a 100 people crowding around the plane and on the hills overlooking the highway, many taking pictures. There were people holding bags, apparently passengers, and being interviewed by police and Federal Aviation Administration officials. The doors on the airplane engine were open.
"I was really surprised. They have it all under control, and everybody is safe on the plane. . . . I thought there would be a lot more chaos," Yvonne Biegel said.
Piilani Highway was closed between Kilohana and Wailea Ike drives, the county said. The road remained closed as of 9:30 p.m.
"It is a good thing they widened Piilani years ago," said Yvonne Biegel.