Lāna‘i Plane Crash: On-Scene Investigation to Wrap Monday

March 1, 2014, 4:58 PM HST · Updated March 3, 11:00 AM
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Lānaʻi plane crash site, photo courtesy Hawaii News Now.

Lānaʻi plane crash site, photo courtesy Hawaii News Now.

By Wendy Osher

The on-scene investigation into Wednesday’s Lāna‘i plane crash is expected to wrap up on Monday, according to federal officials.

We spoke with Peter Knudson, National Transportation Safety Board spokesperson today who updated us with the progress of the investigation.

Below is a transcript of the interview:

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Maui Now: Can you provide us with some background on the investigation and progress to date?

Peter Knudson: “On Friday, the two investigators on scene had recovered both of the engines from the aircraft and had brought them to a secured site where they could start a closer examination of the engines today, to determine if there were any problems with them prior to the accident… to ensure that they were properly producing power.

Today they were going to try to complete the recovery of all of the remaining wreckage at the accident site, and bring that to a secure facility where they can lay that out and continue their documentation.

MN:  Was the black box recovered?

PK: “There was not.  There was no type of voice recorder. The aircraft of that size is not required to have one. I asked investigators if they had seen anything or recovered anything that could be used — any kind of electronic recording device. Sometimes we see GPS units sec that might have some information that could be helpful to the investigation, but they did not as of yesterday, they had not located anything that was recoverable.

MN: I understand that there was a pretty large debris field.  Can you describe how extensive it was?

PK:  “It was about 500 feet in length. The fuselage came to rest at the end of the debris field. Basically the fuselage came to rest about 500 feet beyond where the aircraft first struck the ground.”

MN: Going forward, what is the next step for the investigation?

PK: “The investigators expect to wrap up the on-scene phase of the investigation by Monday. They will then return to their offices both on the mainland, and will write up a preliminary report. We will submit that to Washington…  It will basically contain the facts and the circumstances of the accident as we have them at this early point in the investigation. It won’t point to any sort of cause or factors. There’s a lot more things for the investigators to get to. The timeline for an accident of this nature generally runs right around 12 months.”

MN: So when will the preliminary report will be available?

PK: “Our goal is to have it available within 10 business days of the accident.”

MN: Any kind of idea of what may have happened just by what’s been recovered so far?

PK: “No.  In the first phase of the investigation, they are really just focused on collecting the evidence — focused particularly on the on-scene and perishable evidence and documenting that. There’s so many things to look at. We don’t start to make those analytical evaluations until we have a lot more information to work with. So we really don’t get into that at this point.”

MN: You said that the debris field extended 500 feet. Was any part of it over water or was it all over land?

PK: “It was all over land. It was a relatively flat rolling area and terrain where the accident occurred.”

On Friday, the Maui Police Department confirmed that all victims of Wednesday’s plane crash on Lāna‘i have been recovered and were taken to the department’s forensic facility in Wailuku.

The Maui Air flight was scheduled to leave at around 9:05 p.m. and crashed shortly after departure at around 9:23 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. Three of the six people aboard, including the pilot were killed in the crash.

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