Maui airport crasher
pleads guilty

Paul Blatchley plowed a friend's
SUV into the ticketing area
and set the vehicle on fire

A Maui man admitted in court yesterday to driving his roommate's sport utility vehicle, containing three 5-gallon cans of gasoline, into the Kahului Airport terminal and setting it afire to disrupt the airport's operations.

But Paul Blatchley said he didn't intend to hurt anyone.

Blatchley, 52, of Haiku, pleaded guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court to causing violence at an international airport.

In exchange for his guilty plea, federal prosecutors have agreed not to charge Blatchley with any other offenses stemming from the Feb. 29 incident, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Wes Porter.

In court yesterday, Blatchley told U.S. Magistrate Kevin Chang that he drove to Wal-Mart that morning and purchased three gas cans. He then filled the containers at a gas station, then drove into the Kahului airport terminal near the ticketing counters.

"Without the intention of hurting anyone, I lit a can of gas that had spilled over," he said.

He did not explain what provoked his actions but friends of Blatchley had said he had been depressed. At the airport, Blatchley allegedly yelled, "I wanna kill myself" before he was overpowered by airport security. Earlier, Blatchley told the court he has been using the antidepressant Prozac.

Federal public defender Shanlyn Park declined comment.

Porter characterized Blatchley yesterday as "a guy trying to draw attention to himself but picked the wrong venue."

While no one was injured in the incident, the airport suffered property damage from the fire and was shut down for several hours, affecting the travel plans of hundreds of passengers, Porter said.

Prosecutors agreed to the deal "because it's the most serious charge we're charging him with and he's pleading guilty to it and saving time and resources without going to trial," Porter said.

Under the agreement, prosecutors are free to argue at sentencing whether Blatchley intentionally or recklessly endangered the safety of people at the airport.

Blatchley faces maximum penalties of up to 20 years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000 when sentenced Sept. 27. He will remain in federal custody until then.


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