Man Survives Plane Crash in Ocean

On January 18, 2004, a 56-year-old man flying a home-built Van’s Aircraft RV-8 experimental airplane from O‘ahu to Kaua‘i crash landed in the ocean 25 miles southeast of Līhu‘e, Kaua‘i, about 60 miles from O‘ahu.

The pilot was trapped in the upside-down cockpit after the impact inverted the plane and pinned the canopy shut. Underwater for about one minute, the pilot finally freed himself just before the plane sank.

The downed pilot was a Coast Guard civilian volunteer who often flew his own plane. He had contacted air traffic controllers just before the crash, and a Coast Guard helicopter soon arrived and found the man treading water and clutching pieces of the wreckage. He was pulled up in a rescue basket.[i]

Surfer Dies in Banzai Pipeline Wipeout

On January 19, 2004, a man from Japan was pulled unconscious from the ocean after a wipeout on a wave at the famous O‘ahu north shore surfing spot, Banzai Pipeline. A large swell had brought waves with faces in excess of 20 feet high, and the man had gone “over the falls” and been driven beneath the water. The powerful wave also broke his board in two.

A fellow surfer retrieved the man after seeing the broken board floating above him, still attached to the victim by a leash. After the man was brought to shore lifeguards re-established a pulse, but he remained unconscious.[ii]

Shaking Baffles Kaua‘i Residents

On January 29, 2004 Kaua‘i’s police civil defense, news outlets, and military installations were inundated with reports by residents around the island of an extended shaking, though no one could explain the cause. Theories included earthquakes, sonic booms, distant thunder, and a landslide, but no evidence of any of these causes was found.[iii]

Three Perish in Air Ambulance Crash

On Saturday, January 31, 2004, a Hawai‘i Air Ambulance plane crashed on Hawai‘i Island’s Mauna Kea volcano. The burned wreckage of the 26-year-old medical transport plane was found in heavily forested terrain two days later, on Monday morning, February 2, about 22 miles northwest of Hilo.[iv] Three people were killed in the crash.

Two Swept Off Shoreline Rocks

On April 1, 2004, a man, a woman, and their 11-year-old son were standing on some shoreline rocks at Kaua‘i’s Lumaha‘i Beach when a rogue wave washed up onto the rocks and pulled the two adults into the ocean. The boy was knocked down, but remained on the rocks.

Lifeguards arrived within minutes from nearby Hanalei Bay, and pulled the two adults from the water. Lifeguards attempted to revive the two drowning victims, but CPR and defibrillation were unsuccessful.[v]

Shark Kills Maui Surfer

On April 7, 2004, a man surfing in murky waters at a spot called “S-Turns” about 250 yards offshore of Pōhaku Park in Kahana was killed by a shark. The man was bit in the upper thigh, suffering a 14-inch wound.

Two people paddling out to surf heard the man yelling for help and provided assistance, but the victim died from loss of blood as he was being brought to shore.[vi]

Wave Sweeps Away Man at Olivine Pools

On April 15, 2004, a 41-year-old man and his 14-year-old daughter visiting Maui were struck by a wave in the area known as Olivine Pools on Maui’s northwest shore.

A helicopter was able to pull the girl from the ocean unharmed, but the man died and was later pulled from the water about 100 yards offshore. The man’s death was the fourth drowning death in the Islands in just two weeks.

Just three days earlier, on Monday, April 12, a 61-year-old visitor from California was seeking to help his grandchildren in the ocean waters off Anahola, Kaua‘i when he drowned.[vii]

Three Survive Plane Crash on Lava Field

On April 18, 2004, a single-engine Piper Warrior tour plane crashed near Miloli‘i on Hawai‘i Island after being caught in a sudden, extreme downdraft also known as a microburst or wind shear. All three people aboard the plane survived.

The plane was enveloped in thick clouds and heavy rain and the woman passenger said to the pilot, “We can’t see a thing.” As the plane emerged from the clouds the pilot was shocked to see that they were just above the trees, and the slope of Mauna Loa was directly in their path.

The pilot said, “Oh my God, we’re too low, we’re going to crash. I’ve got the throttle pulled all the way back and won’t go up, we’re too low.” The pilot then crash-landed the craft on an old lava flow at an elevation of about 4,100 feet above sea level.

The pilot called 911 for help using her cell phone, but could not pinpoint the location of the wreck. Five hours later rescuers found the wrecked plane with the fuselage completely burned. The rescue craft left with two of the survivors but was unable to locate the plane’s pilot.

One Coast Guard rescuer stayed on the scene, and when the noise of the rescue craft subsided, the rescuer heard cries coming from the distant darkness. The pilot, who had hiked to seek help, was found about 150 yards (137 m) away at the bottom of a 100-foot (30 m) ravine. Her arm was severely burned, and her shoes had been melted by the flames, and she suffered further injuries when she fell into the hole.

The two passengers suffered second-degree burns over much of their bodies. The pilot suffered additional burns trying to help one of the passengers out of the burning plane. Officials praised the pilot’s ability to successfully land the plane in the difficult conditions.[viii]

Jellyfish Sting Hundreds in Waikīkī

On July 11, 2004, more than 315 people at Waikīkī beaches were stung by jellyfish, along with 45 stung at other O‘ahu beaches, including Nānākuli and Mā‘ili beaches and Hanauma Bay.

Multiple warning signs had been posted, but many ignored the warnings. The jellyfish are known to arrive on local beaches around the 10th day after a full moon.[ix]

Two Hit by Boat

On July 22, 2004, a dive instructor and his student were run over by the boat of another tour company, causing serious injuries.[x]

Shallow Water Blackout Kills Two

On July 24, 2004 a man competing in the U.S. National Spearfishing Championships on O‘ahu’s north shore did not report back, and was later found dead. The champion spearfisherman died while about 85-feet deep about ¾-mile offshore of Hale‘iwa.

The cause of death was likely a condition known as shallow water blackout, which is caused by oxygen deprivation. Another spearfisher died less than two weeks later offshore of Hawai‘i Island, likely from the same cause.[xi]

Monk Seal Bites Man on Rear

On August 26, 2004, a man swimming at popular Po‘ipu Beach on Kaua‘i’s south shore was bitten on his rear end by a monk seal. He was not seriously hurt. About one week later the same seal lunged and barked at two swimmers. The mother had given birth about three weeks earlier, and the aggressive behavior was likely to protect the pup.

Kaua‘i County officials had already closed off an area of the beach around the seal mother and pup, but the seal mother was swimming when the man was bit. This led authorities to expand the protected area and close off all of Po‘ipu Beach until the pup was weaned, several weeks later.[xii]

Falling Rock Kills Ranger

On September 14, 2004 a ranger for the National Park Service at Haleakalā National Park Service was killed when she was hit by an estimated two-foot diameter boulder that fell from about 40 feet above where the ranger was clearing a rockfall near the junction between Pi‘ilani and Hāna highways.[xiii]

Helicopter Crashes on Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale

On September 24, 2004, a Bell 206B Jet Ranger tour helicopter crashed into a mountain four miles south of Kaua‘i’s Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale at an elevation of about 3,500 feet, killing the four passengers and the pilot.

The helicopter burned “beyond recognition” after impact on a nearly vertical slope about 200 feet below the mountain ridgeline, with wreckage sliding 20 to 30 feet down the mountain.

Coast Guard and Navy helicopters as well as eleven tour helicopters searched for the wreckage, which was discovered the next day Rescuers were not able to reach the site due to the weather and the precarious location. It was the first time that rescuers on Kaua‘i were not able to get to a crash site, with no place to set down the copter in the strong winds, and unable to rappel down the steep cliff face.

An Army Black Hawk helicopter was brought in to recover the bodies in the trying conditions. Other helicopters, including a UH-1 Huey, were used to recover the wreckage and the fifth body. On October 1, rescue crews recovered the last body, which had been trapped under the heaviest part of the helicopter.

The crash occurred in an area that was considered a shortcut to the next stop on the tour, Manawaipuna waterfall, also known as Jurassic Falls. The shortcut is considered safe if the pilot maintains a proper elevation.[xiv]

Shark Bites Spearfisher

On October 9, 2004 a 34-year-old O‘ahu man who was spearfishing was bitten on the left shoulder and face by an estimated 12-foot shark in murky waters outside Kūpeke Fishpond in southeast Moloka‘i.

At the time of the attack, the man was in water about four feet deep, and saw the shark as it approached him head on. The victim had caught some fish and they were trailing behind him attached to a cord about thirty feet long. “I remember this big force hitting me,” he recalled, “and this big shadow wrapping me up, and I remember just being shaken.”

As the shark returned the man hit it with his uncocked spear gun, and the shark swam away. Quickly losing blood, the victim used his wetsuit to help stop the bleeding. The wound was exacerbated, doctor’s said, by the “...shaking action of the shark’s clamped jaws.”

After the attack, the man was able to climb atop the wall of the fishpond before others spotted him and provided assistance. Several surgeries were required, including a reconstruction of the shoulder area.[xv]

Boat Capsizes, Killing Two

On October 15, 2004, two fishermen died after their 13-foot Boston Whaler capsized off O‘ahu’s Kewalo Basin. The bodies were retrieved after a search by 20 firefighters and rescue workers, including a Honolulu Fire Department helicopter and rescue boat with the help of the Coast Guard.[xvi]

Plane Crashes on Haleakalā

In October of 2004, a twin engine Cessna 310 airplane crashed in a remote pasture at the 3,700-foot elevation on the slopes of Maui’s Haleakalā Volcano. The pilot was killed as he was thrown about thirty yards from the plane, which crashed in a fireball and started a brush fire. There were no passengers.[xvii]

Pilot Ditches Second Plane in Five Years

On November 5, 2004 a 67-year-old pilot flying from Hilo to American Sāmoa was forced to ditch his Cessna 182 airplane in the ocean about 700 miles south of Honolulu. The plane flipped over and the pilot was able to retrieve a life vest, strobe light, and mirror but not the emergency raft, and the plane quickly sank.

The pilot had reported engine trouble before the crash occurred at about 11:30 a.m. About seven hours later a Coast Guard C-130 plane located the downed pilot, calling it a near miracle that they were able to find him given the vast area they were searching. The man was treading water, and the Coast Guard dropped a raft, and he was able to climb in.

The Coast Guard arranged for the man to be picked up by a cargo container ship that was near the area. Amazingly, the same pilot had been forced to ditch another plane in 1999, when his Piper Cherokee airplane had an engine malfunction 300 miles (483 km) northeast of the Hawaiian Islands as he flew to Hilo from Florida.

The man floated for ten hours in a life vest before being spotted by a Korean-bound grain freighter.[xviii]

[i] Blakeman, Karen. Pilot OK after ocean rescue: Coast Guard makes save southeast of Līhu‘e. The Honolulu Advertiser, 1/19/2004.

Fujimori, Leila. Home-built airplane crashes off Kauai: The pilot is safe and in good condition after being rescued by the Coast Guard. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 1/19/2004.

[ii] Gordon, Mike. Surfer dies 11 days after Banzai Pipeline wipeout. The Honolulu Advertiser, 1/31/2004.

[iii] TenBruggencate, Jan. Mysterious shudder has Kaua‘i residents abuzz: Quake, sonic boom, thunder suspected. The Honolulu Advertiser, 1/31/2004.

[iv] Vorsino, Mary. NTSB investigators comb crash site: Pieces of wreckage found on the Big Isle will be examined at Hilo airport hangar. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 2/05/2004.

[v] TenBruggencate, Jan. Kaua’i wave kills couple, spares son. The Honolulu Advertiser, 4/02/2004.

[vi] Wilson, Christie. Shark kills surfer off Maui. The Honolulu Advertiser, 4/08/2004.

Kubota, Gary T., and Bernardo, Rosemarie. Shark kills surfer, 57, off Maui. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 4/08/2004.

[vii] Hurley, Timothy. Californian drowns off Maui: Man becomes fourth tourist to die in ocean in two weeks. The Honolulu Advertiser, 4/16/2004.

[viii] Vorsino, Mary. Tour plane crashes on Big Isle; 3 injured. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 4/19/2004.

Dayton, Kevin. Plane-crash survivors endure painful recovery: Nearly 1 year later, Ohio couple faces huge medical bills. The Honolulu Advertiser, 3/06/2005.

Dayton, Kevin. Skills praised of pilot caught in “downdraft.” The Honolulu Advertiser, 4/22/2004.

Dayton, Kevin, and Boylan, Peter. “I couldn’t believe anyone survived”: Plane crash rescue recounted. The Honolulu Advertiser, 4/20/2004

[ix] Gonser, James. Jellyfish invasion hits bathers hard: Watch eases after 318 swimmers stung Sunday in Waikīkī. The Honolulu Advertiser, 7/13/2004.

Bernardo, Rosemarie. Box jellyfish sting more than 300: Safety officials say swimmers are disregarding signs posted in Waikiki. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/12/2004.

[x] Sommer, Anthony. Divers recall horrific accident: A dive instructor loses his leg while his student almost loses his right arm. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/23/2004.

[xi] Vorsino, Mary. Diver dies in tournament: A search turns up the body of a champion spearfisherman in 80 too 90 feet of water. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7/25/2004.

Big Island man dies while free diving. The Honolulu Advertiser, 8/06/2004.

[xii] TenBruggencate, Jan. Monk seal on Kaua‘i bites pushy tourist in the butt. The Honolulu Advertiser, 8/27/2004.

[xiii] Hurley, Timothy. Boulder kills Maui ranger: Seasonal worker was clearing rockfall when she was struck. The Honolulu Advertiser, 9/15/2004.

[xiv] Chang, Lester. Five missing in helicopter crash. The Garden Island, 9/26/2004.

Finnegan, Tom. ...grounded another day. The Garden Island, 9/27/2004.

Finnegan, Tom. Last helicopter victim retrieved: Authorities officially confirm identities of five victims. The Garden Island, 10/02/2004.

TenBruggencate, Jan. Copter ‘ran into mountain’: Rescuers will try to recover bodies today from Kaua‘i cliffside. The Honolulu Advertiser, 9/26/2004.

TenBruggencate, Jan. Copter wreckage yields few clues so far: Pilot may have been taking shortcut to Kaua‘i waterfall. The Garden Island, 10/05/2004.

TenBruggencate, Jan. 5th body pulled from crash: Federal investigators to look into number of recent accidents. The Honolulu Advertiser, 10/02/2004.

[xv] Aguiar, Eloise. Doctors operate on shark victim. The Honolulu Advertiser, 10/16/2004.

Aguiar, Eloise. Shark victim facing surgeries: Friend who came to aid feared blood loss would prove fatal. The Honolulu Advertiser, 10/12/2004.

Boylan, Peter. Moloka‘i shark victim saw shoulder ‘gone’: Pearl Harbor worker will be moved to O‘ahu hospital today.

Hoover, Will. Shark attack victim facing long recovery. The Honolulu Advertiser, 10/20/2004.

Shark attacks diver off Moloka‘i. The Honolulu Advertiser, 10/10/2004.

Vorsino, Mary. Shark attacks diver off Molokai: The Kaneohe man is airlifted too Maui with deep lacerations. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 10/10/2004.

[xvi] Waite, David, and Hoover, Will. Boat capsizes, 2 bodies found: Fishing buddies were on outing off Kewalo Basin. The Honolulu Advertiser, 10/16/2004.

[xvii] Hurley, Timothy. Plane crash probe to begin: Pilot killed; fireball on Haleakalā seen from miles away. The Honolulu Advertiser, 10/19/2004.

Pilot was owner of aviation company: Ward Mareels also was well respected as male midwife. The Honolulu Advertiser, 10/20/2004.

[xviii] Boylan, Peter. Safety gear paid off in pilot’s 2nd rescue at sea. The Honolulu Advertiser, 10/06/2004.