GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Honolulu Fire Department rescue crews plucked this woman and man from the ocean off Hawaii Kai early yesterday evening after their Cessna aircraft ditched.
2 safe after plane crash
They ditch into seas off Koko Head when gas apparently runs out
A South Carolina couple were cold, wet and shaken, but otherwise OK after surviving a plane crash in waters one to two miles south of Koko Head yesterday evening.
Honolulu Fire Department rescuers found the 29-year-old husband, who piloted the plane, and his 31-year-old wife floating in a small orange life raft, but the Cessna 150J plane was not visible.
The couple, who were the only occupants of the Cessna 150J, told police the plane went down probably because of engine trouble.
The Cessna 150J is a single-engine plane registered to George's Aviation Services in Honolulu. Company owner George Hanzawa said the pilot saw he was running out of fuel at 2,000 feet and declared an emergency. When the engine quit, the man glided the plane into the wind and ditched the aircraft on the water, he said.
The couple rented the plane for the day and were returning from the neighbor islands when the accident occurred, Hanzawa said. The pilot had a commercial license.
Coast Guard officials said they received a call from the Federal Aviation Administration at about 5:52 p.m. reporting a small plane declaring an emergency. About a minute later, the FAA called the Coast Guard to report the plane had crashed into the water off Koko Head.
Fire Capt. Paul Stankiewicz said the fire department received a cellular phone call at 5:58 p.m. from someone who reported seeing a small plane going down off China Walls in the Portlock area of Hawaii Kai.
COURTESY KITV4 NEWS
Drama unfolded yesterday evening at Maunalua Bay as a couple was rescued from the ocean and returned to land after their Cessna went down off Portlock in Hawaii Kai. In this TV image, the woman is shown being set down in a rescue basket by a helicopter.
A fire department helicopter airlifted the woman from the raft to paramedics on shore at Maunalua Bay within 30 minutes of the call, fire and Coast Guard officials said.
Her husband was brought in by a fire rescue boat about 10 minutes later, rushed to her side and gave her a kiss.
Stankiewicz said they were cold and "shaken up a bit," but had no apparent injuries.
The couple left the bay in an ambulance, but refused treatment by Emergency Medical Services personnel and were not taken to a hospital, a city Department of Emergency Services spokesman said.
"They're just lucky to be in good shape," said a city lifeguard who was in the area on his personal watercraft and helped in the rescue.
The Fire Department dispatched an engine with a rescue watercraft, two rescue units, one hazardous-materials unit, a helicopter and a battalion chief.
Although the rescue went smoothly, "credit goes to the pilot himself" for the couple's survival, a fire official at the scene said. Fire personnel from an engine near China Walls spotted the couple in the water and guided the rescue crew, which launched from Maunalua Bay, to the raft's location.
Hanzawa said the couple used the craft's safety equipment and followed the proper emergency procedures and "that's why they're alive today." He estimated the cost of the lost plane at $30,000.
According to its Web site, George's Aviation Services offers small aircraft for training, rental and charters.
The Coast Guard searched for the ditched plane to aid a National Transportation Safety Board investigation and to check for safety hazards, said Coast Guard petty officer Michael De Nyse.
"Our initial search was to prevent any danger to mariners. There was no wreckage on the surface and we concluded our search," De Nyse said. The Coast Guard will not continue searching today.
The wreckage was an estimated two miles from shore in the Portlock area in water about 1,000 feet deep. There was no pollution from the crash sighted, De Nyse said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.