Hawaii crash claims 9 men, 2 women, most in their late 20s

  • Remnants of an aircraft carrying nine people lies on the ground near a fence that surrounds Dillingham Airfield in Mokuleia, just off Farrington Highway, Friday, June 21, 2019. Nine people on board the twin engine aircraft died Friday night in a crash on Oahu’s North Shore, officials said. (Bruce Asato/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP)

  • This is the site where a Beechcraft King Air twin-engine plane crashed Friday evening killing multiple people seen on Saturday, June 22, 2019, in Mokuleia, Hawaii. No one aboard survived the skydiving plane crash, which left a small pile of smoky wreckage near the chain link fence surrounding Dillingham Airfield, a one-runway seaside airfield. (Dennis Oda/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP)

  • Brian Raley places large flowers and leaves as part of a memorial at the site where a Beechcraft King Air twin-engine plane crashed killing multiple people Friday evening near the chain link fence surrounding Dillingham Airfield, Saturday, June 22, 2019, in Mokuleia, Hawaii. At left, a good friend of Raley (she didn’t want to give her name) and of the people who perished in the plane grieves for them. (Dennis Oda/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP)

  • A memorial is seen at the site where a Beechcraft King Air twin-engine plane crashed Friday evening killing multiple people near the chain link fence surrounding Dillingham Airfield in Mokuleia, Hawaii. Police and sheriffs patrol the area. No one aboard survived the skydiving plane crash. The flight was operated by the Oahu Parachute Center skydiving company. (Dennis Oda/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP)

  • This June 2015 photo provided by Natacha Mendenhall shows Casey Williamson in Fort Worth, Texas. Natacha Mendenhall said her cousin Williamson, who worked at Oahu Parachute Center, was on board the skydiving plane that crashed on Friday evening, June 21, 2019. She said her family has not been officially notified of his death. But they provided Honolulu police with Williamson’s name and date of birth, and the police confirmed he was on the flight, she said. The 29-year-old Yukon, Oklahoma native started skydiving about two-and-a-half years ago. (Natacha Mendenhall via AP)

  • This June 2019 photo provided by Natacha Mendenhall shows Casey Williamson, left, and his mother Carla Ajaga in Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas. Mendenhall said her cousin Williamson, who worked at Oahu Parachute Center, was on board the skydiving plane that killed multiple people when it crashed Friday evening, June 21, 2019. She said her family has not been officially notified of his death. But they provided Honolulu police with Williamson’s name and date of birth, and the police confirmed he was on the flight, she said. The 29-year-old Yukon, Okla., native started skydiving about two-and-a-half years ago. Williamson was his mother’s only child, Mendenhall said. (Natacha Mendenhall via AP)

HONOLULU — Casey Williamson’s love of adventure led him to winter snowboarding in Vail, Colorado, and summer skydiving in Moab, Utah. A year-and-a-half ago, he found his way to Hawaii, where he could skydive year-round.

On Friday, the 29-year-old was among 11 killed when their skydiving plane crashed and burned at a coastal airfield on the island of Oahu. It was the worst civilian aviation accident in the U.S. since 2011.

Williamson was his mother Carla Ajaga’s only child, his cousin Natacha Mendenhall said.

“We’re all very upset,” said Mendenhall, speaking from her home in Fort Worth, Texas. “She cannot really talk right now. What she wants everyone to know is how full of life her son was, how loving he was.”

Williamson, who was from Yukon, Oklahoma, worked as an instructor and as a videographer who filmed customers as they dove. He was trying to earn more jumping hours and learn the trade, Mendenhall said.

Williamson’s family has not been officially notified of his death. But they provided Honolulu police with Williamson’s name and date of birth, and the police confirmed he was on the flight, Mendenhall said.

No one aboard survived the crash, which left a small pile of smoky wreckage near the chain link fence surrounding Dillingham Airfield about an hour north of Honolulu.

Police told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the victims were nine men and two women. Both women and three of the men were all in their late 20s. Police, who didn’t return messages to The Associated Press, didn’t have ages on the six others.

Names of the victims have not been released. A spokesman for the mayor’s office says the earliest any information will be released by the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office will be Monday.

Steven Tickemyer said he saw the plane take flight, get 75 to 100 feet (22 to 30 meters) off the ground and turn away from the mountain range nearby.

He said the plane then started to nosedive and flip over belly forward so that it was upside down. The aircraft then flipped over again and hit the ground nose first. There was an explosion when it hit the ground.

This all transpired in about 20 to 30 seconds, said Tickemyer, who watched from a beach across the street where he was attending a friend’s small wedding ceremony.

He and his friends hopped in his truck, called 911 and drove over to help. They screamed to see if anyone would respond, but no one did, he said.

The crash appeared to be the worst U.S. civil aviation accident since a 2011 accident at the Reno Air Show in Nevada that killed the pilot and 10 spectators.

Officials in Hawaii initially reported that nine people had died and that three of them were customers of the skydiving company operating the plane and that six were employees. But the Hawaii Department of Transportation tweeted Saturday that officials later “confirmed there were 11 people on board the plane” and no survivors. They were not identified.

The flight was operated by the Oahu Parachute Center skydiving company. The ratio of employees to customers aboard suggested that tandem jumps may have been planned in which the customers would have jumped while attached to experienced skydivers, Tim Sakahara, a spokesman for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, told reporters.

Witness Wylie Schoonover saw the plane flying over trees while driving from a nearby YMCA camp after picking up a friend. Then she saw smoke billowing from the airfield and drove over.

There was an “insane amount of fire,” she said.

“It didn’t even look like a plane. A bunch of people were asking ‘what is this?’ It was completely gone,” Schoonover said.

The same plane was involved in a terrifying midair incident three years ago in Northern California that prompted the 14 skydivers aboard to jump earlier than planned to safety.

In that 2016 incident near Byron, California, the twin-engine plane stalled three times and spun repeatedly before the pilot at that time managed to land it safely, the National Transportation Safety Board said in an investigative report. The report blamed pilot error.

Investigators found that the plane had lost a piece of horizontal stabilizer and that the plane’s elevator had broken off. The plane was also too heavily weighted toward the back, which was also blamed on the pilot.

The plane with two turboprop engines was manufactured in 1967, Federal Aviation Administration records said.

No one answered the phone at Oahu Parachute Center, which advertises its services on a web site saying its jumps offer people “a magical experience.” Tandem jumps are featured at prices ranging from $170 to $250.

Dillingham Airfield is used mostly for skydiving and glider flights. Hawaii shares the airfield with the Army, which uses it for helicopter night-vision training.

———

Selsky reported from Bend, Oregon. Associated Press writers David Koenig in Dallas and Caleb Jones in Honolulu contributed to this report.

2 Comments
  1. Uncleaina June 24, 2019 3:07 am Reply

    What a terrible tragedy. My condolences to the families. Read the story of how the plane almost crashed before – the people didn’t just dive early, they dived to get off a plane that was about to crash.


  2. Lorelei Mindoro June 24, 2019 7:28 am Reply

    My condolences to all the families of these people, and especially the Tehero family. Colleen ( husband), I am so sorry. Thoughts and prayer to all. Love and Aloha~


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.