Lānaʻi Wreckage Mostly Consumed by Post Impact Fire
By Wendy Osher
A preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board on last month’s deadly Lānaʻi plane crash says “the main wreckage was mostly consumed by post-impact fire.”
The report further states that “the airplane was substantially damaged,” in the Feb. 26 incident, colliding with terrain shortly after departure from the Lānaʻi Airport while en-route to Kahului.
According to the preliminary NTSB report, the debris field was 640-feet long, with charred vegetation observed within the ground scar left at the first identified point of contact. The majority of the debris from the wreckage was found within the last two-thirds of the debris field.
The NTSB described the plane as a Piper PA-31-350 aircraft, registered to Maui Aircraft Leasing, and operated by Maui Island Air. It was being operated by Richard Rooney, 66, of Pāʻia, who was described by the agency as a certified commercial pilot.
Rooney was among the three people who died in the crash. The others who suffered fatal injuries were: Tremaine Balberdi, 52, of Kahului, a secretary to the boards and commission II; and Kathleen Kern, 50, of Kīhei, a planner V for the Maui Planning Department.
The three people who survived the crash were: James Giroux, 43, of Haʻikū, a deputy with Corporation Counsel for the County of Maui; Douglas Miller, 57, of Kahului, a planner IV for the Maui Planning Department; and Mark King, 43, of Kīhei, a geographical information systems analyst V for Maui.
Authorities say the wreckage was recovered and brought to a secure location for further investigation.
Peter Knudson, NTSB spokesperson, told Maui Now that the investigation timeline for an accident of this nature generally runs around 12 months before a final report is released.