A passenger who survived Wednesday's ditching of a single-engine airplane off Kalaupapa says state Health Director Loretta Fuddy, 65, was conscious after she and eight others entered the water.
Click here to watch Andrew Pereira's report.
"As far as her giving any signs of distress, I didn't see anything," said C. Phillip Hollstein, 70, who was on Molokai for his fire sprinkler business.
A U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer says Fuddy had no pulse when he reached her to hoist her to safety. Fuddy was the only person on board the plane who didn't survive.
Hollstein says he heard a dull pop shortly after the Makani Kai Cessna Grand Caravan 208B took off from the airport in Kalaupapa. He credits pilot Clyde Kawasaki with giving the passengers on board a chance to survive, and estimates it took less than a minute for the plane to hit the water.
"His control of the airplane is why we're still here, as far as I can see," said Hollstein. "We're all very fortunate because had that plane flipped over, it would have been a whole different story, I'm sure."
Hollstein says upon hitting the water, he tried to open the door closest to him, but it would not budge. A fellow passenger, Jacob Key, was able to pry open the main cabin door, and one by one, everyone on board used the built-in steps to "walk" into the ocean.
"So, even though the water was coming in, I'm sure it made it easier for people to get out," said Hollstein. "They just go down the steps like going into a swimming pool."
Before beginning his mile-long swim back to shore, Holstein noticed Fuddy clinging to her deputy, Keith Yamamoto.
"I know he was watching her just because he was with her, they travel together and all that stuff," he said. "Everyone was just helping everyone and nobody was panicking, even in the water."
The National Transportation Safety Board has sent a team to Honolulu to investigate the crash. Hollstein says he has yet to be interviewed by the NTSB, but expects to be contacted soon.
"The whole thing was surreal, just knowing that we're going to be going into the water," explained Hollstein. "I wasn't thinking about dying or anything. I said, 'OK, well let's see what happens.'"