2 on plane that crashed off Hawaii Island out of hospital
KONA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Despite floating at sea for nearly 20 hours until their rescue, David McMahon and Sydnie Uemoto have been released from the hospital on Saturday.
The two lost contact with air traffic controllers Thursday afternoon and the twin-engine plane plunged into the waters off Kona.
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter plucked David McMahon and Sydnie Uemoto from the water just before noon Friday, as they were trying to swim to shore, and took them to the Kona Airport to get medical treatment for minor injuries.
Rescuers said the pair's quick thinking and will to survive kept them alive.
"I'm just elated. The nightmare is finally over!" McMahon's father, Rick, told Hawaii News Now.
Coast Guard rescuers said the two survived because they worked together, and acted quickly before the plane went down to make a plan.
The Coast Guard said when the two realized the plane was going to crash, McMahon turned the controls over to Uemoto while he opened the door to the aircraft. She landed the plane in the water and grabbed life vests on the way out of the door.
McMahon told the Coast Guard that the plane immediately sank. Both pilots clung to those life vests while swimming to shore.
Rescue swimmer Kevin Cleary said bringing the two to Kona Airport and seeing them reunite with their families is something he won't soon forget.
"I've never been able to be part of something like that. To be able to see the families reunited with their loved ones after thinking the worst, it was a special moment. It was pretty surreal," he said.
"They were crying and giving us hugs and extremely appreciative of everything we did and we really didn't do much it was a team effort to get them. And honestly, their will to survive was the biggest thing that got them through."
The search for the two started Thursday about 3:15 p.m., following a distress call from the plane. Coast Guard officials said the plane was about 25 miles northwest of Kona when the pilot lost contact with the tower.
U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy and New Zealand Air Force crews looked for the two by air and sea, combing miles of ocean off Hawaii Island.
The Federal Aviation Administration said the pilot of the Piper PA-23 reported having engine problems before ditching in the ocean.
On Friday morning, a tour helicopter spotted debris in the water and alerted authorities. Coast Guard rescuers rushed to the spot, where they found McMahon and Uemoto in the water, clinging to their life vests.
McMahon's father said his son was logging hours, flying from Barbers Point to Maui to Kona, when the plane went down. He was supposed to return to Barbers Point by Thursday evening.
Reached Friday after the two had been rescued, Rick McMahon said the two had "beat the odds."
"Both of them are alive. It's unbelievable," he said. "The Navy, the Coast Guard, the local fishermen, the family charter boats that went out -- God, it's unreal. The support and the love of this community and this island, there's nothing like it in the world."
Friends said Uemoto was heading to Kona for her father's birthday.
Both McMahon and Uemoto are pilots with Mokulele Airlines, but this flight was not for the airline. Coworkers said Uemoto is also a ramp worker with Hawaiian Airlines.
On Thursday, search conditions were favorable. But by early Friday, the conditions had worsened. Rescuers were reporting winds of 35 mph and white cap sea swells of 3 to 4 feet.
In addition to the Coast Guard and Navy, foreign military personnel participating in the Rim of the Pacific exercises participated in the search.
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