By Wendy Osher
Three people are dead, and three others are injured after a plane chartered by the County of Maui crashed  about a mile outside of the Lānaʻi on Wednesday night.
County officials have since confirmed that the pilot and two Department of Planning employees suffered fatal injuries in the crash.
Two other planning employees were in critical condition and a deputy attorney for Corporation Counsel was in serious condition, according to County Communications Director Rod Antone. All three survivors were airlifted to the Queens Medical Center after the crash.
Authorities say the group had traveled to Lānaʻi to attend a Planning Commission meeting at the Lānaʻi Senior Center that was scheduled to conclude at 8:30 p.m.
The Maui Air flight was scheduled to leave at around 9:05 p.m. and crashed shortly after departure.
The Maui-based company, whose full name is Maui Air – Volcano Air Tours, specializes in aerial tours of Kīlauea, the Big Island of Hawaii’s active volcano area, and eco flight tours of Hāna, Haleakalā, Mauna Loa and Hilo.
According to the company website, the airline operates three twin-engine, 10 seat, Piper Chieftain airplanes. Company representatives tell Maui Now that the airline has a 20 year perfect safety record, but with little information to go on, they were unable to comment about the crash when we contacted them last night.
According to preliminary data released by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Piper PA-31 aircraft sustained substantial damage. The N483VA identification number indicates that the plane is a fixed-wing, two-engine craft owned by Maui Aircraft Leasing LLC.
Maui Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga said crews were dispatched to the Miki Basin area at 9:23 p.m., about a mile southwest of the Lānaʻi Airport.
Emergency dispatch received a 9-1-1 call from man identified by county authorities as the deputy attorney for the Corporation Counsel, who said he had been in a plane crash. Friends of the man identified that survivor as James Giroux and say he was undergoing x-rays and a CAT-scan overnight.
According to Antone, the man told emergency dispatchers that he had pulled two of his co-workers away from the fire as best he could because they could not move on their own. All sustained burn injuries and were transported to the Queens Medical Center on Oʻahu for treatment.
When fire crews arrived on scene they worked to put out a small brushfire ignited by flames from the wreckage.
Antone said the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation and Safety Board have been notified of the crash and Maui police investigators are expected to be on scene at first light this morning.
The identities of the victims will be released by police following an investigation.
A press conference in which Mayor Alan Arakawa is scheduled to speak has been moved back from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27.