Planes Wings Were Wobbling Before Accident

March 15, 2006

Mike Gordon, Advertiser Staff

Preliminary report on last week's crash on Maui released

A Hawaii Air Ambulance plane crashed on Maui on March 8. The date of the crash was incorrect in a story on Page B8 yesterday. Marlena Yomes, who was one of three people killed in the crash, was 38 years old. Her age has been reported incorrectly.]

Witnesses to a fatal air ambulance crash told federal aviation investigators that they saw the plane's wings wobble several times before it plummeted into a car dealership in Kahului, Maui, according to a preliminary report released today by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Although brief, the report on the March 9 accident is the first formal description of the crash that killed pilot Peter Miller, 32, of Kailua; assistant chief flight nurse Brien Eisaman, 37, of Waipahu; and Marlena Yomes, 39, a mobile intensive care technician from Wai`anae.

They were flying in a Hawaii Air Ambulance Cessna 414A to Maui to transport a critically ill patient to O`ahu.

The twin-engine plane was flying "very low, between 100 and 300 feet" over Kahului about one mile west of the airport when witnesses noticed trouble, the report stated.

"The wings were wobbling at times and the airplane rolled up to 60 degrees angle of bank at other times," the report stated. "All witnesses said they heard engine noises that they associated with an engine or engines operating at high power, and saw the landing and position lights on."

The wings continued to wobble and witnesses said they saw the plane "drop straight down out of the sky."

It slammed into a BMW dealership, sending a huge fireball into the air. The crash occurred at 7:13 p.m.

Andrew Kluger, Hawaii Air Ambulance chief executive officer, said yesterday he would not speculate on the cause of the crash.

"We are encouraged that the NTSB's investigation is proceeding. However, we cannot speculate regarding the cause of (last) Wednesday's crash until the conclusion of that investigation," Kluger said.

He added that the company is "fully cooperating" with the NTSB.

"We will continue the comprehensive, voluntary inspections of our remaining aircraft to provide a comfort zone for everyone who flies aboard our planes," Kluger said in a statement.

"The completion of those inspections will be announced. Until then, Hawaii Air Ambulance is continuing aeromedical services, utilizing U.S. Coast Guard and chartered aircraft."

Rick Fried, an attorney hired by Yomes' relatives to investigate the crash, earlier this week said witnesses told him that the plane banked on its left wing 70 to 80 degrees shortly before the accident.

But Fried also said that before banking, the Cessna may have been caught in air turbulence created by a larger commercial jet that was landing. And, he said the flight was forced to make a last-minute runway change to the north - from Runway 2 to Runway 5.