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Investigation of East Molokai Crash Continues

More details on a Jan. 16 forced emergency aircraft landing in east Molokai have surfaced in a preliminary report recently released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

According to the report, a privately owned Cessna 172 carrying a pilot and three passengers “collided with terrain” in Ualapue on Molokai’s east end around 2 p.m. that Friday. There were no casualties, although one passenger was rescued in serious condition and the other three with minor injuries.

The plane was owned by Hawaiian Night Lights, LLC. Pilot Michael Richards, a certified flight instructor, was giving a flying lesson to a Japanese citizen while her parents accompanied them in the plane. No flight plan had been filed when they took off from Honolulu International Airport, according to the NTSB.

“They departed Honolulu and headed east towards Kalaupapa where they performed basic flight maneuvers,” reads the report. “They then followed the coastline towards the eastern end of Molokai. Having reached the eastern shore, they turned back, flying a direct route to the Koko Head VOR (very high frequency omni-directional radio range).”

Ian Gregor, Public Affairs Manager for the Federal Aviation Association, said the plane then “reportedly lost engine power.”

“At an altitude of about 3,300 feet mean sea level … the airplane began to descend, and as they approached a ridgeline the airplane encountered downdrafts,” continues the report.

In the valley with no escape route, the report says, Richards decided to land the plane in some trees, causing “substantial damage to the fuselage and both wings.”

Maui Fire Department personnel airlifted the four from the crash site to a landing zone at Pu`u O Hoku Ranch. The student’s mother was taken by Medevac to Maui Memorial Hospital in serious condition. Richards, the student and her father were transported to Molokai General Hospital for treatment for minor injuries.

The names of the passengers have yet to be released.

The report added that the information is still preliminary and “may contain errors.”

 

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