Four bodies have been recovered from a private airplane that crashed in a remote region in the mountains of Oahu, Hawaii, Friday, July 28 while on a “round robin pleasure flight,” according to investigators.
Lyssa Chapman, who appeared with her parents Beth and Duane “Dog” Chapman on the hit reality show Dog the Bounty Hunter, was friends with the crash victims and reported them missing.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the Beech 19A Musketeer Sport left Honolulu International Airport using visual flight rules (VFR) to fly around the island. A spokesperson for Ms. Chapman said the plane was piloted by Dean Hutton with passengers Gerrit Evenson, his girlfriend Heather Riley, and Alexis Aaron.
The group rented the plane from Aircraft Maintenance & Flight School Hawaii, owned by Jahn Mueller. FAA records show the plane is registered to Mueller, who issued this statement Sunday morning:
“I am deeply saddened by this tragic event and my prayers go out to all affected. I don’t want to speculate on the cause of this accident as that will be determined by professionals in due time. I knew Dean and he loved flying and had many hours in that airplane. He had an alternator issue several flights ago, and he handled it like a professional, and the aircraft was repaired and returned to service.”
Authorities say the plane crashed in a remote and inaccessible part of the Kunia Loa Ridge Farmlands north of Makakilo, Hawaii. Rescuers from the Honolulu Fire Department had to rappel off of a rescue helicopter inserted into the mountainside to retrieve the bodies Saturday.
Scott Potwin, Mr. Hutton’s uncle, told the Associated Press that the airplane Mr. Hutton rented had problems. Mr. Potwin said the last time his nephew flew the same rental plane, it lost all power and communications.
Witnesses told Hawaii News Now that the airplane appeared to be having problems when they saw it.
“I heard it come over the mountain and it was flying kind of low and my friend was like ‘that’s pretty low,'” witness Aaron Alder told Hawaii News Now.
“Then it was making a turn to go back over (the mountain) but it … wasn’t making a smooth turn. Then it went over there and all we heard was a ‘boom’ then the sound just went off.”
The FAA said the aircraft last communicated with air traffic controllers around 6:37 p.m. Friday. At that point, the plane was reportedly near Kaena Point, about 20 miles from the crash site.
Investigators don’t know why the airplane’s disappearance went unreported until Saturday morning. They are also trying to determine why the plane diverted from its original flight path.
Metropolitan Consulting Engineering & Forensics, which has blogged about the crash, said that the plane crash was the second one involving a plane by Aircraft Maintenance & Flight School Hawaii and Mr. Mueller.
“In a bizarre twist, Mueller also owned the single-engine, fixed wing Piper PA-28 that crashed June 30 into a stream just shy of Moanalua Gardens,” Metropolitan Consulting wrote. “The pilot and two passengers were seriously injured in that crash.”
The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA have taken over the investigation from state officials.