Wreckage of missing tour plane found
The bodies of the pilot and two passengers are recovered
HILO - A Hawaii County contract helicopter found the wreckage of a missing Island Hoppers Cessna 172M tour plane at 5:53 a.m. today in dense forest on the southeast slope of Mauna Loa, Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira said.
There were no survivors among the pilot and two passengers who were on board. They were previously identified as pilot Katsuhiro Takahashi, 40, of Kailua-Kona, and passengers Nobuhiro Suzuki, 53, and his wife Masako, 56, of Urayasu, Japan.
The plane left from Kona airport Tuesday morning and the search was initiated after it failed to return as scheduled.
Oliveira said the plane broke into four or five pieces when it crashed. The site is in the state forest reserve, about 8 miles due west of Pahala.
The location of the crash may be an indication that the pilot was intending to fly over the hump of Mauna Loa's southwest rift zone after touring Kilauea Volcano, rather than trace a longer route that would have followed the lower elevation Hawaii Belt Highway.
The crash victims were removed from the scene and taken to the Belt Highway where a body removal service transported them approximately 50 miles to Hilo Medical Center, Oliveira said.
National Transportation Safety Board officer Jim Struhsaker was flown by a county helicopter from Kona to the crash site, arriving about 8 a.m., Oliveira said.
Struhsaker later left the crash site, but he remains the official in charge, Oliveira said.
The normal procedure would be for the NTSB to hire a contract helicopter capable of removing airplane pieces from the forest and transporting them to a site where they could be examined in detail, Oliveira said. He had no word on when that would be done.