Pilot of plane that crashed off Makaha says he'll give up flying

Salvage operations begin for plane that crashed in waters off Makaha

MAKAHA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Monday, Eric Kawamoto and his wife were headed back to Oahu in their small airplane from a friend's wedding on Kauai when they suddenly encountered engine problems.

They were near Makaha at the time, and one of Kawamoto's first thoughts was that he didn't want to crash into people on the beach. So he turned and glided the plane into the water.

"I actually had full power coming out at 3,500 feet and then it just … slowed down to where it couldn't sustain altitude," Kawamoto told Hawaii News Now, in a live interview on Wednesday morning.

Kawamoto returned to Makaha Beach Park on Wednesday morning, shortly before crews began salvage operations for the single-engine Beechcraft Sundowner registered to Kawamoto and his wife, Leslie.

He said that he initially thought he might make it to Kalaeloa airport, but quickly realized the plane was going down. The plane crashed about 40 yards off Makaha.

"The plane floated for a little bit, and when it finally went under, we just jumped off and started swimming to shore," Kawamoto said.

Friends traveling in another aircraft circled overhead until lifeguards and a good Samaritan with a Jet Ski came to the rescue.

The plane's seat belts left behind bruises, but the couple didn't suffer major injuries. They were taken to the Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center and later transferred to the Queen’s Medical Center.

When asked what was going through his mind at the time, Kawamoto said that he wasn't fearful of death but rather the extent of the injuries he would have.

Kawamoto is an electrical engineer with the Navy. He started flying planes 18 years ago, but his days in the cockpit may now be over.

"We were still on the wing and she said, 'I'm never flying with you again,'" said Kawamoto. "It seems like it's too much of an emotional stress on her and I can deal with that. I can give it up."

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are still investigating the crash.

This isn't the first time that Kawamoto has survived a life-threatening experience. In 2003, he was shot in the chest when he walked in on a burglary at his Punchbowl home.

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