George's Aviation Services owner George Hanzawa, left, commented yesterday on the search for missing student pilot Chezray Hayes. At right is Hanzawa's friend Peter Dudgeon.

Wreckage on Molokai
likely is teen’s plane

The student pilot had disappeared
Saturday during a solo flight

By Rosemarie Bernardo

A search helicopter spotted a wrecked plane on Molokai this morning that officials fear is the Cessna 172 flown by a 17-year-old student pilot who vanished Saturday during a solo flight.

The wreckage was spotted by a Maui Fire Department helicopter crew at about 7:30 a.m. today on a mountain ridge near Pelekunu Valley in northeast Molokai. Officials could not immediately confirm that it was the missing single-engine plane flown by student pilot Chezray Hayes but "more than likely it is," said Maui fire Capt. Frank Tam.

The Coast Guard, notified of the sighting, dispatched a helicopter to the area, said chief petty officer Tyler Johnson. The helicopter crew recorded the wreckage on video and was returning to Honolulu for analysis of the video, he said.

The wreckage was at the 1,500-foot level and inaccessible except by air, Tam said. Police from Maui County, which includes Molokai, will be sent to the area to investigate, he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which has sent an investigator to the islands, also will investigate, authorities said.

Hayes, a Mililani High School senior, was flying solo in a plane from Honolulu to Kahului on Saturday. The last radio contact with him was at about 12:15 p.m. east of Kalaupapa. A radar plot showed his plane about a mile inland on Molokai.

Friends of Hayes had planned to begin a ground search today of a remote area of East Molokai.

At least two dozen experienced hikers have volunteered to be flown to Molokai to search the mountains for Hayes, said George Hanzawa, owner of George's Aviation, where Hayes was taking lessons for his pilot's license. Hanzawa owns the missing Cessna.

"I'm hopeful that he is alive and slightly injured and waiting for us to help," Hanzawa said yesterday. "There is so much compassion from people who want to help."

Hanzawa could not be reached this morning to comment if the ground search will be canceled.

Hanzawa flew Hayes' parents and other relatives to Molokai yesterday morning.

As he organized the effort to search for Hayes on the ground, Hanzawa said it was hard not knowing what happened.

"You start wondering, what caused what?" he said. "You feel helpless."

Two Coast Guard HH-65 helicopters and a C-130 plane and the Maui Fire Department helicopter searched for Hayes' yesterday until darkness fell. Planes from the Civil Air Patrol and other private helicopter and aviation companies also joined the search.

Hayes left Honolulu Airport at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. His flight plan indicated he was to fly from Oahu to Ilio Point to Cape Halawa on Molokai, according to Hanzawa. Hayes was then supposed to fly to Nakalele Point on Maui, then to Kahului Airport on Maui and land about 1 p.m. Saturday.

A man who lives on a cliff near the ocean and mountains in East Molokai heard a plane pass over his home about that time, said Coast Guard Petty Officer David Mosley.

About three months ago, Hayes got his student pilot certificate from George's Aviation Services. His solo flight to Maui was a requirement for a private pilot's license, Hanzawa said.

"He was progressing at a steady pace," he said. "He just loves to fly."

A fellow student at Mililani High School said Hayes is well known on campus and is "fun to be around and makes you laugh."

Hayes, known as "Chez," joined the school track team last year and participated in pole vault competitions.

Dane Matsunaga, head coach for the Mililani track team, said Hayes has a good attitude and that he was shocked to hear Hayes was reported missing.

Hanzawa said the Cessna 172 had recently been through an inspection and had a new engine. It was equipped with emergency equipment, including a life raft, life vest and an emergency locator radio beacon that is supposed to activate in the event of a crash.

Hanzawa and Coast Guard officials were not sure why the beacon did not go off.

Hanzawa said he has been calling Hayes' cellular phone, which he took on the flight, since his plane was reported overdue. Hanzawa said the teen's phone continues to ring.

"I'm hopeful that he can get to his phone and hear it ringing," he said. "He must be injured and is unable to search for it."

Star-Bulletin reporters Gary Kubota and Nelson Daranciang contributed to this report.

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