Eleven people died when the small plane they were aboard for a skydiving tour crashed shortly after takeoff on Friday, June 21, 2019, in Mokuleia, Oahu, near Dillingham Airfield. By the time first responders arrived at the crash scene fire had fully engulfed the aircraft and it was unrecognizable, according to sources.
Officials told reporters that the victims included nine men and two women, with at least five of the victims in their late 20s. The Beechcraft BE65 twin-engine plane was operated by Oahu Parachute Center, a skydiving company, with initial reports indicating the plane carried three customers and six employees. Family members of some of those aboard the aircraft were at the airfield when the tragedy occurred.
Witness Describes Beechcraft BE65 Plane Crash
Jennifer Homendy, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member, said the plane banked left after it took off from runway 8 and crashed north of the runway near an airport perimeter fence.
Steven Tickemyer, who was near the airport when the crash occurred, told reporters that he saw the plane reach an altitude of approximately 75 to 100 feet before it began to nosedive, then flip upside down. The aircraft then flipped again, crashed into the ground nose first, and exploded. No one on the plane survived, and witnesses said there was nothing left of the plane following the fire. Debris was spread over a 2,500 square-foot area.
The customers were reportedly about to take part in a 14,000-foot tandem sunset jump, which gives jumpers a view of Oahu’s North Shore during sunset. The jump involves 60 seconds of free fall and then four to six minutes of canopy flight.
The Same Plane was Involved in a Near Tragedy in 2016
The same plane that was involved in the Hawaii skydiving plane crash was involved in a near-tragedy in 2016 in California. At the time, the Beechcraft was carrying skydivers when it stalled three times and spun out of control. The skydivers jumped out safely during the plane’s second spin event and the pilot safely landed the aircraft back at the airport, although the plane’s tail section sustained significant damage. The right horizontal stabilizer and elevator were found a few miles south of where the plane landed.
Officials attributed the accident’s cause to the pilot, saying there was too much weight in the back of the plane.
The NTSB said it is analyzing the quality of repairs done to the plane following that near-crash and it will also evaluate whether the skydiving operation performed adequate aircraft maintenance and inspection. A full report into the crash might not be released for a year and a half.
Aviation Accident Attorneys
Attorneys at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman have extensive experience representing victims of aviation accidents, including small plane crashes. We are a nationally recognized law firm and have a proven track record of successfully representing clients whose lives have been drastically affected by a plane crash, ensuring their rights are protected. We have represented families from seven Hawaii-related air crashes since 1989, including several Hawaii helicopter or airplane crashes involving tours.