Medical Examiner: 10 men, 1 woman died in Dillingham Airfield crash

Jun 22, 2019

NTSB investigator Eliott Simpson briefs NTSB Board Member Jennifer Homendy Sunday at the scene of the Hawaii skydiving crash.
Credit National Transportation Safety Board

Updated: June 23, 4:22 p.m.

The Honolulu Medical Examiner determined 10 men and one woman died Friday night at Dillingham Airfield, all the result of multiple blunt trauma injuries caused by the crash of a skydivers airplane. Official identities of the victims may be released starting Monday, the medical examiner said through a city spokeman Sunday afternoon.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Sunday it will examine repair and inspection records on the skydiving plane that crashed and killed 11 people on Oahu's North Shore.

The NTSB's Jennifer Homendy told reporters at the crash site Sunday that those and other records will all become part of the investigation and final report. The same plane sustained tail damage in a California accident in 2016.

A preliminary report is expected in 10 to 14 days.

Homendy said the plane was equipped to carry 13 people, but that weight and balance checks need to be conducted before each flight.

She said the airplane banked shortly after takeoff and crashed inverted. No one aboard survived, making it the deadliest civil aviation incident since 2011.

The airport remains closed during the investigation.

Some details are starting to be released about the 11 victims who died when the plane carrying sky divers crashed near Dillingham Airfield on the North Shore of Oahu Friday evening.

Police told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the victims were nine men and two women. (The medical examiner later reported 10 were male and one was female.)

Five were said to be in their late 20s. Police, who didn't return messages to The Associated Press, didn't have ages on the six others.

The crash appeared to be the worst U.S. civil aviation accident since a 2011 accident at the Reno Air Show in Nevada that killed the pilot and 10 spectators.

A skydiving plane was involved in a terrifying midair incident three years ago in Northern California that prompted the 14 skydivers aboard to jump earlier than planned to safety, according to government investigative records.

The Beechcraft King Air plane crashed and burned on Oahu island's north shore Friday evening after witnesses said it appeared to turn back shortly after takeoff.

In the July 23, 2016, incident near Byron, California, the twin-engine plane stalled three times and spun repeatedly before the pilot at that time managed to land it safely, the National Transportation Safety Board said in its investigative report. The agency blamed pilot error.

No one aboard survived the Hawaii crash, which left a small pile of smoky wreckage near the chain link fence surrounding Dillingham Airfield, a one-runway seaside airfield.

Witness Steven Tickemyer saw the plane take flight, get 75 to 100 feet off the ground and turn away from the mountain range nearby.

He said the plane started to nosedive, then flipped over belly forward so that it was upside down. The aircraft then flipped over again, and hit the ground nose first. He said there was an explosion when it hit the ground.

Tickemyer told The Associated Press this all happened in about 20 to 30 seconds.

He and his friends were watching from a beach across the street. They hopped in his truck, called authorities and drove to the crash site.

They screamed to see if anyone would call for help, but no one responded, he said.

Officials in Hawaii initially reported that nine people had died and that three of them were customers of the skydiving company operating the plane and that six were employees. But the Hawaii Department of Transportation tweeted Saturday that officials later "confirmed there were 11 people on board the plane" and no survivors. They were not identified.

The flight was operated by the Oahu Parachute Center skydiving company. The ratio of employees to customers aboard suggested that tandem jumps may have been planned in which the customers would have jumped while attached to experienced skydivers, Tim Sakahara, a spokesman for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, told reporters.

Some family members of those aboard were at the airport when the plane went down at about 6:30 p.m., Honolulu Police Chief Manuel Neves said.

Witness Wylie Schoonover saw the plane flying over trees while driving from a nearby YMCA camp after picking up a friend. Then she saw smoke billowing from the airfield and drove over.

There was an "insane amount of fire," she said.

"It didn't even look like a plane. A bunch of people were asking 'what is this?' It was completely gone," Schoonover said.

The plane with two turboprop engines was manufactured in 1967, according to FAA records.

The NTSB report on the 2016 incident in Northern California said the plane rotated nine times during one of the three spins it experienced. Investigators found that the plane had lost a piece of horizontal stabilizer and that the plane's elevator had broken off. The plane was also too heavily weighted toward the back, which was also blamed on the pilot.

No one answered the phone at Oahu Parachute Center, which advertises its services on a web site saying its jumps offer people "a magical experience." Tandem jumps are featured at prices ranging from $170 to $250.

Videos from the company's Facebook page show jumps from the plane that crashed, with customers strapped to employee skydivers jumping out the side door of the aircraft from 10,000 feet or higher, with the Pacific Ocean and the Oahu's green mountains far below.

Dillingham Airfield is used mostly for skydiving and glider flights. Hawaii shares the airfield with the Army, which uses it for helicopter night-vision training.