Hawaii health director killed after plane crash had infant life vest

Published: May. 5, 2016 at 8:47 AM HST|Updated: May. 5, 2016 at 6:00 PM HST
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Hawaii Health Director Loretta Fuddy (Image: Hawaii News Now/file)
Hawaii Health Director Loretta Fuddy (Image: Hawaii News Now/file)

KALAUPAPA, MOLOKAI (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - The Hawaii health director who died in 2013 when the small plane she was in ditched in waters off Molokai was wearing a faulty infant life vest, the NTSB says in a new report.

State Health Department Director Loretta Fuddy died in the water, and her cause of death was listed as an irregular heartbeat triggered by stress.

Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board also says that the 60-year-old pilot of the Makani Kai Air plane failed to give the eight passengers on board a federally-mandated safety briefing prior to take-off.

The report, released Tuesday, details the moments leading up to the crash and what happened after the plane hit the water. It also includes new information on the Cessna 208B's engine maintenance records and specifications.

The NTSB, however, has not yet released the exact cause of the December 11, 2013 crash.

According to the report, the pilot experienced a "loss of engine power" about two minutes after takeoff on the Honolulu-bound flight from Kalaupapa.

When the plane hit the water about 3:20 p.m., all of the passengers and the pilot exited the plane through the rear right door. Some were wearing life vests; others put them on after exiting the aircraft.

Fuddy was among two passengers who were wearing infant life vests. Her vest was also faulty: Only one of its carbon dioxides cartridges was working. The other was punctured and empty.

The report said that Fuddy "was observed by another passenger 'to be fearful and hyperventilating shortly before losing consciousness.'"

An autopsy said her cause of death was "acute cardiac arrhythmia due to hyperventilation."

The NTSB said that some of the passengers told investigators that they had trouble finding their life vests and opening them.

Among the passengers, one couple suffered serious injuries. A man suffered broken ribs and a head gash. His wife also had some broken ribs and a broken sternum. The pilot suffered serious head injuries.

One of the passengers was able to swim to shore to get help. Rescuers pulled the pilot and seven passengers from the water about 80 minutes after the crash.

The NTSB said an official safety briefing from the pilot is required to "ensure that all passengers have been orally briefed on location and means for opening the passenger entry door and emergency exits, location of survival equipment ... (and) if the flight involves extended overwater operation, ditching procedures and the use of required flotation equipment."

Instead of giving the briefing, the pilot asked the passengers whether they had flown over to Kalaupapa that morning. He then said, "you know the procedures."

The report further indicated that the pilot expressed confusion over differing maintenance rules for the engine.

NTSB officials don't have an exact timeline for release of the probable cause of the crash.


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