HAWAII ISLAND (KHNL) - A nearly week-long search suddenly ends, after the wreckage of a missing tour plane is finally found.
Along with the wreckage, the bodies of the pilot and his two passengers were also discovered.
A helicopter crew spotted the plane in a dense forest reserve on the southeast slope of Mauna Loa just before 6:00 AM Sunday morning.
After nearly six days of search, the discovery of the three's final destination is devastating.
The Cessna Island Hoppers plane took off from the Kona airport on Tuesday on what was supposed to be a short tour around the island.
It's the sight no one wanted to see. Prayers and hope that the three on board may somehow still be alive are now crushed, as bodies wrapped in tarp are removed from the wreckage of their Cessna tour plane.
Five days of futile search are being blamed on the plane's isolated crash site in a forest reserve about 8-miles west of Pahala. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says mid-morning cloud cover is what obscured the area for days.
"We were actually quite lucky to even find the aircraft because of the vegetation of the trees, it was really difficult," said NTSB Officer Jim Struhsaker.
"It's a steep mountain face and our first indication was the crash site was located about the lower one third," said Hawaii Fire Department Cpt. Greg Kane.
The victims are two Japanese passengers and their pilot 40-year-old Katsuhiro Takahashi. Officials say his clockwise travel path around the island followed his flight plan, which helped narrow the search.
"It made our focused efforts a lot easier to coordinate because his last sighting was in the volcano eruption area and he had planned to continue south to Kona," said Big Island Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira.
The wreckage will be removed and transported to another easier accessible site to be examined in detail. autopsies are being arranged.
After days of search and hours of family anguish, the question now turns to how it all happened.
Family and friends of the passengers have traveled to the Big Island and are being debriefed by authorities.