HANAPEPE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Monday was Carlos Oyola’s first time giving skydiving a try.
He, along with his cousin, decided to have some fun while on Kauai, so they signed up for a skydiving tour with Skydive Kauai.
While on the plane, they encountered a mid-air scare over Hanapepe.
For the first half of the flight, Oyola said things were going smoothly.
“Gorgeous scenery, the doors were open. Got a nice breeze. Great view of everything — cloud nine,” Oyola said.
Then, out of nowhere, the pilot detected something wrong with the plane.
“All of a sudden the pilot says, ‘We’re going to be going back down.’” Oyola recalled. “He says we just need to get down now. And a couple seconds goes by and he says, ‘You guys need to get out of the plane now.’ My mind is going 100 mph."
The next few moments of the flight were very rushed with urgency setting in. Oyola and his cousin were both quickly strapped to their tandem instructors. Seconds later, they were forced to jump out of the plane earlier than they had anticipated.
“Right after that, the plane started shaking. I seen the tail kind of going up and down pretty violently,” Oyola said.
His cousin ended up safely touching down at Eleele Elementary School, well off course of the designated landing area. Oyola and his instructor landed safely in a grassy area near Hanapepe Valley — even with a line twist in their parachute.
No one was injured in the incident and the pilot was able to safely navigate the aircraft back to a nearby small airport.
Kauai Fire Department officials said the pilot experienced a mechanical issue at 4,000 feet in the air, though specifics of the malfunction were not immediately clear.
Once Oyola made it back to the company headquarters, he spoke to the pilot who said he was losing control of the plane and steering was becoming difficult during the flight.
When Hawaii News Now called Skydive Kauai on Tuesday to elaborate, an employee claimed there was never a mechanical issue reported and it was just a routine jump driven off course due to the line twist.
“To hear that they said that sounds like they’re trying to cover up something. Sounds like they don’t want authorities to know that maybe they did something wrong,” Oyola said.
On Wednesday, HNN reached out to the company again for comment. Our calls went unanswered.
Skydive Kauai does have a troubling past. It is the same company responsible for a skydiving tragedy in 2016. Five people died when their aircraft crashed moments after takeoff from the same airport near Port Allen.
In that incident, the NTSB investigation said an engine failure led to a loss of control of the plane.
It’s still not known what might have caused this recent scare, but Oyola says safety should be a top priority for all adventure companies. He’s thankful things didn’t turn out much worse than they actually did.
“I didn’t get to enjoy it as skydiving. It wasn’t skydiving for me, it was jumping out of a (plane). Like having someone say, ‘Get out of the plane now,’ like something is wrong,” Oyola said.