December 12, 2013

Hawaii's health director killed in plane crash

Nine people survived the crash into the water off of Molokai.

Associated Press

HONOLULU — A small plane carrying nine people crashed into the water off the Hawaiian island of Molokai, killing the director of the state Department of Health, officials said. The eight others survived.

A pilot and eight passengers were on board the Makani Kai Air plane, which was scheduled to take off at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday and fly to Honolulu. It went down about a half-mile northwest of Kalaupapa peninsula, Maui Fire Department spokesman Lee Mainaga said in a statement.

The director of the state Department of Health, Loretta Fuddy, and the department’s deputy director, Keith Yamamoto, were on the flight, department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said.

They were at Kalaupapa for an annual visit, Okubo said. Hawaii once exiled people with leprosy, or Hansen’s disease to Kalaupapa from 1866 through 1969.

Tom Matsuda, the interim executive director of Hawaii’s health insurance exchange, confirmed Fuddy’s death.

“I cannot even begin to convey what a terrible loss this is for Hawaii,” Matsuda said in a statement. “I worked closely with Director Fuddy on the Affordable Care Act and came to know and respect her as a passionate advocate for public health and a warm, caring human being.”

Makai Kai Air President Richard Schuman told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the plane was a Cessna Grand Caravan.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie said a Coast Guard helicopter rescued 3 passengers out of the water and Maui fire crews picked up others. One person swam ashore.

McKenzie said the helicopter brought three people to Honolulu for medical treatment, while a Coast Guard plane took five people to Maui.

The remote peninsula on the north side of Molokai island is still a leprosy settlement run by the state Health Department, though only a few former leprosy patients continue to live there. Kalaupapa is also home to a national park.

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