LODD: Coast Guard calls off search for missing plane, Hawaii Life Flight crew

The aircraft with three people aboard went missing Thursday night off the coast of Maui


UPDATE: (10:25 a.m. CST)

The Coast Guard has suspended the search for Hawaii Life Flight's plane, according to a post by Global Medical Response.

EARLIER: 

By Mark Ladao
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

HONOLULU — There still have been no confirmed signs of Hawaii Life Flight's Beechcraft King Air 90 twin-propeller plane that dropped from radar contact at around 9:30 p.m.

The search for a medical transport aircraft that went missing Thursday night off Maui with three people aboard continued Saturday with no results, as officials worked to ensure adequate air service for neighbor island patients who require care at off-island hospitals.

There still have been no confirmed signs of Hawaii Life Flight's Beechcraft King Air 90 twin-propeller plane that dropped from radar contact at around 9:30 p.m. Aircraft debris was found late Thursday about 16 miles south of Hana in the area where the flight is believed to have gone down, but it's not yet clear if it belongs to the missing plane, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. A sheen on the ocean surface also was observed in the search area.

A Coast Guard spokesperson described the weather in the Alenuihaha Channel between Maui and Hawaii island Thursday night as "foul " and that there was "some wind and some rain."

The Coast Guard cutter William Hart continued to search overnight and officials said there were no plans to suspend efforts to locate the plane and its crew.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators were due to arrive Saturday night.

The fixed-wing plane was on a flight from Kahului Airport to the Waimea-Kohala Airport on Hawaii island to pick up a patient when it went missing. The identities of those aboard have not been released.

As of 5 p.m. Saturday, the Coast Guard had searched about 2, 400 nautical square miles of ocean, with its auxiliary and the Civil Air Patrol joining the effort.

Hawaii Life Flight, which has been providing air medical transport in Hawaii since 2010, grounded seven other aircraft and placed crews in a "safety stand-down " following Thursday's presumed crash.

Global Medical Response, which operates Hawaii Life Flight and is headquartered in Greenwood Village, Colo., said in a news release Saturday that the safety stand-down is usual protocol after an incident "so precautionary maintenance checks can be performed on all similar aircraft and so that all crew members can focus on their mental well-being during this difficult time."

In a separate post Saturday on GMR's Facebook page, the company asked for continued prayers "for our team members and their families." GMR has 39, 000 employees in the U.S. and around the world, many of whom left comments expressing support and offering prayers for the missing and their family members.

Hawaii Life Flight also uses Airbus EC135 helicopters for air ambulance transportation, according to its website.

The stand-down has resulted in a shortage of air medical transportation between the islands, prompting Hawaii Gov. Josh Green to issue an emergency proclamation Friday to shore up medical staff and aircraft. He said there are 10 to 15 medical air transports daily in Hawaii.

Out-of-state medical personnel and a jet were scheduled to arrive in Hawaii this morning. The proclamation, which runs through Dec. 27, suspends registration and licensing requirements for out-of-state medical personnel to work in medical air transport in Hawaii.

Additionally, two Hawaii National Guard Black Hawk helicopters staffed by GMR clinicians and the company's Maui-based medivac helicopter have been made available to assist with medical transport serv ­ices. GMR also said it is partnering with its sister companies, AirMed International and REACH Air Medical Services, as well as Emergency AirLift of Oregon, to augment emergency air operations.

Hawaii has seen at least two previous crashes involving medical transport aircraft. On March 8, 2006, three people were killed when a Hawaii Air Ambulance Cessna 414A crashed into a car dealership off Hana Highway on its way to pick up a patient at Kahului Airport. On Jan. 31, 2004, three people were killed when a Hawaii Air Ambulance Cessna 414A crashed into a forested area on the slopes of Mauna Kea on a flight to pick up a patient in Hilo.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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