HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Pilot Clyde Kawasaki had just turned his Cessna Grand Caravan southwest out of Kalaupapa when he heard the engine give out.
"Loud bang! I didn't have much time other than to push the nose over, maintain air speed," he said.
He knew he couldn't make land so he ditched his Makani Kai aircraft in the water.
"We were just coming down too quickly to stretch the glide. I said, 'We're going to go for a swim,'" he said.
Kawasaki managed to broadcast a Mayday call while safely gliding the plane down. Engine failure to impact took less than a minute.
"Water was already up to my waist or higher when I got out of the seat," he said.
He made sure his eight passengers made it out of the cabin safely. He handed his life vest to one of them.
"There was one guy standing there looking around. He goes, 'I need another life vest.' I said, 'There's one here.' And I just grabbed it and said, 'Go! Get outta here!'" he said.
In the rough sea Kawasaki clung to one of the passengers and counted heads.
"I checked on the passengers as best as I could. Tried to keep them together. Tried to keep them away from the aircraft because I didn't know how long it was going to float," he said.
A plane circling overhead brought reassurance. Joy came when rescuers arrived. Then came word that Loretta Fuddy had died. He says it was devastating news.
"I didn't understand how it could have happened because everyone seemed fine when we got out of the airplane," he said.
Kawasaki was hospitalized for two days after the crash with a concussion. Even though everyone is calling him a hero, he doesn't feel like one.
"Never having damaged an aircraft, never having hurt anybody, that's how it's supposed to end. But obviously that's not going to happen now," he said. "I feel really, really bad. It hurts, especially for her family. especially at this time of year."