Deadly small plane crash in Koolau mountains - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Deadly small plane crash in Koolau mountains

Rescue crews assembling in the area of Laukahi Street Rescue crews assembling in the area of Laukahi Street
David Watanabe, on right David Watanabe, on right
HFD Captain Terry Seelig HFD Captain Terry Seelig
A plane similar to the one that crashed A plane similar to the one that crashed

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

KOOLAU MOUNTAINS (HawaiiNewsNow) - A small plane crashed into the Koolau mountains and burst into flames, killing at least one person on board.

Just before sunset, rescuers made it to the crash site and confirmed there were no survivors.

The plane went down just after 1:45 Sunday afternoon.

In the hills above Waialae Iki near the Wiliwili Nui trail in East Oahu, witnesses say the plane caught fire after it crashed.

Sources tell Hawaii News Now that it may have been a plane that was returning to Honolulu from Lanai, and that there may have been two men on board.

The Federal Aviation Aministration provided the tail number of a plane that went off radar in that area.

Public records show the registered owner of that aircraft is Nicholas Palumbo.

Family members of private pilot Palumbo gathered at Waialae Iki Park, as emergency personnel attempted to reach the site of a plane crash by air and on foot.

"We've located the site of the plane crash. It's way up in the Koolau Mountains, but it's in a very precarious position,"said Captain Terry Seelig with the Honolulu Fire Department.

Palumbo's wife told Hawaii News Now that she believes he was flying the Piper that went down.

Police and fire crews rushed to Wiliwilinui Trail after hikers reported a downed plane.


"Actually, Tim saw a plane flying very low, at our eye level. All of a sudden it just hit the side of the mountain and we saw the flames come up, so we just called 911 after that," said David Watanabe, a hiker who witnessed the crash.

Rescue personnel got close enough to the wreckage to take photos and confirm that there were no visible signs of life.

The FAA confirms at least one fatality and says the single-engine fixed-wing aircraft was destroyed by fire.

"Basically communicating with people who believe that they know who the pilot and the plane is," said Capt. Seelig.

Hawaii News Now was told Palumbo runs a pet clinic in Kapahulu and flies back and forth between Oahu and Lanai for work.

Sources say he keeps his plane in a hangar off Lagoon Drive near the Honolulu International Airport, is a certified pilot for both single-engine and multi-engine aircraft, and just renewed his medical certificate about seven months ago.

"Right now we can't discover the actual identity of the aircraft because of its position and condition and the fact that we lost the light so we can't continue to do the operation tonight," said Capt. Seelig.

Investigators with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board plan to go to the scene Monday morning to begin their crash probe.

Rescue crews will also be there for what's now a recovery operation.

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