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Bystanders aid victims of plane crash


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POSTED: Saturday, December 20, 2008

As a Good Samaritan pulled three occupants from a plane wreckage in Kalaeloa yesterday morning, one victim wondered aloud whether the crash really happened.

 

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The single-engine plane was practicing takeoffs and landings when it crashed just before the runway.

 

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    "The woman was saying, 'Is this real, is this a dream?'" said George Aubert, a captain with the 25th Infantry Division.

 

The three occupants—a man and two women—were at Queen's Medical Center last night.

Emi Wilkie, a 40-year-old Punahou resident, was identified as one of the three occupants. She was listed in guarded condition last night, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Another occupant was also in guarded condition while the third was in critical condition, but Queen's could not give out details on their identities.

The man was described to be in his 50s and the other woman was described to be in her 20s.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash that occurred about 11:41 a.m.

The victims were in a single-engine Piper Cherokee 140 when the plane lost power while departing from Kalaeloa Airport. The pilot was practicing "touch and go's," a procedure where the pilot lands, continues rolling and takes off again without stopping, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.

Based on damage at the site, it appeared that the aircraft clipped a power line and mowed down some trees before crashing into a large kiawe bush on the Waianae-side of Coral Sea Road, said flight instructor Alan Miller.

"The kiawe is so hard, it's like hitting concrete," said Miller. A large piece of the plane was lying on the opposite side of the roadway near the torn trees.

Miller was flying with a student when he heard a female's voice over the radio twice say to air traffic controllers that she suffered power failure.

"I heard a call that she lost power and she went down shortly after that," said Miller, who was at the crash site.

The plane, with the tail number N6182J, was built in 1976 and is owned by Offshore Flight School Inc.

Many people from Japan and abroad take lessons at the school near Honolulu Airport, according to the company's Web site. Company officials could not be reached for comment.

Aubert and his mother, Rosemarie DeMars, who were on their way to White Plains Beach, saw the wreckage and called 911.

Aubert, who recently returned to Hawaii from his third tour of duty in Iraq for the birth of his son, said the occupants were wearing seat belts and were conscious.

Worried about the smoke coming from the plane's engine and the smell of fuel, Aubert pulled the three people out through the shattered windshield with the help of his mother.

Aubert said the man, who had a laceration on his head, and one of the two women were seated in the front seats while the other woman who appeared to suffer from a head injury, was in the rear seat.

Aubert and his mother talked to the occupants to keep them conscious. "We kept telling them help is on the way," said Aubert.

About 35 city, state and federal firefighters as well as paramedics responded to the scene at Kalaeloa, formerly known as Barbers Point.

"Paramedics responded pretty quickly," said DeMars.