GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Investigators examined an airplane crash at a BMW of Maui parking lot last night in Kahului. A pilot and two medical personnel flying from Honolulu were killed. A wheel of the plane was pointed in the air behind the vehicle.
3 dead in Maui air ambulance crash
An air ambulance hits a car lot near airport in Kahului
A pilot and two medical personnel died last night when a Hawaii Air Ambulance airplane crashed into a BMW dealership near Kahului Airport, state and county officials said.
The twin-engine Cessna 414 crashed into the dealership near the Hana Highway at 7:15 p.m., state Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said. There were no survivors on the plane and no reported injuries on the ground, officials said.
Hawaii Air Ambulance identified the victims as: pilot Peter A. Miller, a 32-year-old Kailua resident; Brien P. Eisaman, 37, a nurse and Waipahu resident and the assistant chief flight nurse; and Marlena L. Yomes, a paramedic, Honolulu base station supervisor and a Waianae resident.
"On behalf of all our staff and crew at Hawaii Air Ambulance, our most heartfelt sympathies go out to the families of our employees in this tragic loss of such exceptional individuals," said company Chief Executive Officer Andrew Kluger in a statement released late last night.
He declined further comment on the crash pending the conclusion of an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. However, he said, the company will continue providing air ambulance service in Hawaii.
Ishikawa said the plane was scheduled to land at the airport at 7:10 p.m. to pick up a patient.
Ali Pishaki, area manager for Denny's Restaurant in Kahului, said, "The plane barely missed us."
It made a big, booming sound, "like somebody dropped a bomb," he said, adding "right after that multiple fires."
Initially, he thought it was an earthquake and saw people running. The car lot is visible from the restaurant, he said.
"The plane was coming down too quick and they yelled and everybody ducked," he said. "The plane lifted up a little bit and could not hold and just crashed into the BMW lot where all the brand-new cars were."
The dealership was closed at the time of the crash, Ishikawa said. Damage on the ground was apparently limited to some cars in the parking lot, he said.
There was no immediate explanation for the crash, Ishikawa said.
It is the second fatal crash for Hawaii Air Ambulance.
On Jan. 31, 2004, three men -- paramedics Mandy Shiraki and Daniel Villiaros and pilot Ron Laubacher -- were killed in the crash of a Hawaii Air Ambulance plane on the densely forested slopes of Mauna Kea.
Yesterday, Joshua Greenbaum*, a Maui resident, said he was riding with a friend in a vehicle from Kula to Kahului when he saw an airplane make an extreme banking turn and then go down at the BMW parking lot.
DAN PEREZ / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
A huge fireball can be seen erupting in this still-frame from cell phone video shot by crash witness Dan Perez.
"I saw the plane dive. Next thing I knew -- boom -- it came down," Greenbaum said.
Witness Dan Perez shot cell phone video of the wreckage scene. "The cars are all in flames, things are exploding. Nuts! That is crazy," he said in the recording. "I was in the Wal-Mart parking lot, and I saw him do a turn. I saw the plane, and he did just a really, really hard turn. ... I heard his engine just go whooooomp!"
Pishaki said the fires burned for 10 to 15 minutes before firefighters extinguished them.
"Flames were almost 15 to 20 feet high, there were a number of explosions. I don't know what tank was blowing, one after another," he said.
He said he ran out to the middle of the highway to see how bad things were and whether the restaurant should be evacuated. "A number of the BMWs were burned and destroyed," he said.
Nathan Jopson, a Maui resident, said he was walking out of Denny's when he heard the airplane and "like something fell off of it." He and his wife, Victoria, said they then heard a big boom.
"I turned around and I saw a fireball 150 feet in the air," he said. Jopson said there was a second explosion and metal parts flew into the air as well. He said an onlooker told him it was the sound was from cars exploding in the parking lot.
At the Krispy Kreme a block away from BMW, sales clerk Dez Sabas said someone came into the shop and said a private plane crashed.
"Five minutes later it exploded," he said. "I guess it was like the car exploded. We just saw fires.
"We were just afraid it might hit us," Sabas said.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
» Joshua Greenbaum was a witness quoted in the airplane crash story on Page A1 Thursday. His last name was misspelled in the article.