Friends of passenger killed in tour aircraft crash recall 'sweet, - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Friends of passenger killed in tour aircraft crash recall 'sweet, giggly' person

Kathryn Moran Kathryn Moran
Tedd Hecklin Tedd Hecklin

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Family and friends are mourning the loss of two Big Island residents who were killed when their ultralight tour aircraft went down into Kealakekua Bay Wednesday. The crash investigation will heat up once the wreckage is recovered.

While the cause of the crash remains a mystery for now, we are learning more about the passenger of the doomed flight. California native Kathryn Moran was known to her friends as Katie. They say she enjoyed Hawaii's sunsets and sea turtles, and flying over the islands.

A grieving Katie Moran moved from California to Hawaii a couple of years ago, seeking a fresh start following her mother's death. Friends back home say they were happy to see that she was enjoying herself in the islands.

"She was just so sweet and loving and forgiving and, you know, and all the things that you would want in a good friend," Holley Smith, Moran's friend, said through tears.

Moran was killed Wednesday, when the motorized hang glider she was riding in crashed into Kealakekua Bay.

"We're still very much in disbelief," Smith said.

The pilot, Tedd Hecklin, 38, of Tedd's Flying Adventures, also died.

"We heard this loud popping, pop, just one big pop," Gordon Leslie, crash witness, said. "At that point, it seemed like or it appeared like -- everything happened real fast -- it appeared like the wings just folded up."

Leslie was taking friends sightseeing in his glass-bottom canoe. He says the crippled aircraft came down about 200 feet from him.

"That was awful," Leslie said. "That was sad because the impact just disintegrated the craft."

Leslie and crew members from two Zodiac tour boats in the bay rushed to the crash site to get the victims out of the gasoline-tainted water.

"They didn't even think about the consequences, you know, just went in," Leslie said.

"Throughout the whole thing, everybody was just...I'm sure in prayers," he continued through tears.

Moran died on her 37th birthday.

"Knowing her, the close relationship she had with her mother and how much she missed her," Smith recalled through tears. "Believing that her mother was there to greet her on the other side is the only thing that, you know, makes me feel a little bit better."

The National Transportation Safety Board says normally, an aircraft's insurance company will make the arrangements to get the wreckage out of the water. Once that happens, crash investigators can begin their examination.

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