Body recovered from plane crash
Police are investigating why the pilot was flying so close to the Maui mountains
HANA, Maui » Fire rescue workers have retrieved the body of a man from the crushed cockpit of a single-engine airplane that crashed in a forest reserve mauka of the Hana Airport.
The man is believed to be a 56-year-old Salt Lake City resident who rented the airplane Thursday from Maui Aviators Flight School.
Authorities have declined to release the man's name until an autopsy is conducted and his identity is confirmed.
His body was airlifted by a county fire rescue helicopter to Hana Airport at about 1:30 p.m. yesterday and taken in a vehicle by the medical examiner's office to Maui Memorial Medical Center in Wailuku.
Fire rescue workers took tools to the crash site at the 2,400-foot level to dig the cockpit out of the earth where it had been embedded in the crash, Fire Capt. Ben Bland said.
A fire rescue worker tethered to a line from the helicopter was unable to find the body Thursday afternoon, and the search was resumed yesterday.
County firefighters and police in Hana initially responded to a call at 3:49 p.m. Thursday about a fire in the mountains.
A Windward Aviation helicopter later reported seeing smoke coming from a downed aircraft.
Police Lt. Glenn Cuomo said initial reports indicate the man who rented the airplane possessed a regular pilot's license and had gone on a checkout flight in November to familiarize himself with flying on Maui.
He said an initial review indicated no signs of foul play.
Cuomo said police detectives were still investigating the pilot's planned flight path and what he was doing flying so close to the mountains.
State airports spokesman Scott Ishikawa said general aviation pilots do make unscheduled flights along varied paths, as opposed to chartered or regularly scheduled airlines.
Ishikawa said an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board probably will arrive Monday or Tuesday to conduct an investigation.
Ishikawa said the usual procedure is for the wreckage to be taken off the mountain and stored for inspection at Kahului Airport.
Federal Aviation Administration records indicate that the aircraft was a Cessna 172S built in 2000 and registered to Maui Aviators in June 2004.
The aircraft is one of six airplanes listed on the Maui Aviators' Web site and could be rented for $144 an hour.