By Timothy Hurley
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 10, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 05:18 a.m. HST, Jun 10, 2014
The plane crash that killed state Health Director Loretta Fuddy was caused by a faulty engine, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by Fuddy's brother.
The suit filed by Lewis Fuddy Jr. on behalf of the Estate of Loretta Jean Fuddy blames Pratt & Whitney Canada Corp. for not fixing a defective compressor turbine that caused the Makani Kai Air plane to lose power and crash in the ocean Dec. 11 off the Kalaupapa Peninsula.
Fuddy, a 30-year Health Department employee, was one of nine people aboard the single-engine Cessna Grand Caravan that ditched into the water. The pilot and all eight passengers made it out of the plane with their life preservers on, but the 65-year-old Fuddy died before Coast Guard and Maui County helicopters arrived about a half-hour after the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board has yet to release its final crash report discussing the probable cause. A preliminary NTSB report described the pilot and passengers hearing a loud bang, followed by a loss of power, forcing pilot Clyde Kawasaki to glide the plane into the water.
"This crash should not have occurred. She should be alive today," said Honolulu attorney Richard Fried, who is representing Fuddy.
Fried said the manufacturer has known about the problem for a long time but failed to pull any planes out of service. Instead, he said, Pratt & Whitney has followed a policy in which it waits for the engines to come back for an overhaul.
"This is a major problem, a flagrant violation of safety," Fried declared.
Pratt & Whitney could not be reached for comment.
Fried said the suit follows numerous others filed against the company over the same issue.
What typically happens, according to the suit, is that the defective turbine blades stretch when heated, causing them to "creep" and come into contact with the engine shroud, which creates a loud bang and a loss of power.
Less than two months before the Kalaupapa crash, the same loud bang was heard by a Mokulele Air Cessna Caravan over Maui, Fried noted. The plane lost power and glided onto Piilani Highway.
Fried pointed out that the FAA issued a directive late last year to have the turbine blades inspected every 500 hours.
But Richard Schuman, owner of Makani Kai Air, said his company inspects his planes' engines, including the turbine blades, every 200 hours.
Makani Kai Air was named in the suit, but Fried said the company was included only if Pratt & Whitney attempts to deflect blame.
The pilot was not named in the suit because he "seemed to do everything he could" to prevent the crash, Fried said.
Lewis Fuddy declined to attend the news conference announcing the suit.
Maui County police said Loretta Fuddy died of cardiac arrhythmia because of stress following the crash. Cardiac arrhythmia is a disturbance in the normal heartbeat, also called an irregular heartbeat, which can be triggered by stress, among other things.
Lewis Fuddy said after the December crash that his sister had not had heart problems or pre-existing conditions that would have contributed to her death in waters off Molokai.
"She was a healthy lady," he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. "She handled stress every day as director of the state Department of Health. She solved problems under pressure. She was a very calm person."
Fuddy had been visiting Kalaupapa in her capacity as mayor of Kalawao County, overseeing the former settlement of leprosy patients.
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