Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa and other county officials faced the media on Thursday after two county employees were killed and three other county employees were injured in a plane crash on Maui.
Arakawa said at around 9 p.m. Wednesday, four members of the Maui County planning department and one of our Corporation Counsel attorneys got on a charter flight at Lanai Airport to return to Maui.
Their plane ended up crashing about a mile southeast of the airport. Emergency dispatchers were called at at 9:23 p.m. by one of the passengers of the plane who described the crash site and where they were in relation to the airport.
Fire crews arrived about 12 minutes later where they found three injured male survivors, two deceased females and one deceased male, who was the pilot. Two of the survivors were in critical condition while the person who made the call was in serious condition, according to the mayor.
All three were airlifted to the Queen's Medical Center where they are undergoing treatment. They are being treated for second and third-degree burns to their face and hands. The severity of the burns vary among the survivors. Arakawa said there may have been more casualties if one of the survivors had not moved the other two away from the flames. That person also called 911 as soon as he was able to, which enabled the emergency crews to attend to the injured quickly, said Arakawa.
Arakawa says he does not know why the plane crashed or the circumstances surrounding the crash and will leave those questions to the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board investigators.
Arakawa talked about the two employees who died in the crash.
"One of them was a longtime employee who worked for us for decades. The other was a bright, young planner who was dedicated to her job in serving the public. The entire county mourns their losses." said Arakawa. "The pilot, who also died in the crash, our hearts go out to his family as well."
Arakawa also wished the three county employees recovering at the hospital a speedy recovery. Grief counselors will be available to county employees on Maui and Lanai.
"This is a tragedy that has stunned our community, but we're also thankful for those lived spared," said Arakawa.
The mayor got emotional as he spoke more about those who lost their lives in the plane crash.
"We all get to work with each other. It's like family," said Arakawa as his voice trembled and was on the verge of tears.
After taking a moment to compose himself, Arakawa continued, "We're a very small community. Everybody knows each other, everybody works with each other. Any kind of a loss like this really hits home."
"There's no easy way to get through any of this. It's like deaths in the family," said Arakawa. "
Arakawa says teleconference is something that the county looked into when communicating with the different communities. Units were actually bought when Arakawa was on the council.
But, state law prohibited this, Arakawa said, because if any kind of communication was broken, the meeting had to be rescheduled and that takes a full week before you can start it again. The interruptions with the communications system was very problematic. Arakawa said that is something the county can re-explore.