HONOLULU (KHON) – The search for a downed air ambulance off Maui entered its second full day on Saturday.
The plane, operated by Hawaii Life Flight, left Maui on Thursday to pick up a patient in Waimea on the Big Island. The aircraft disappeared off the radar around 9:30 p.m. during the roughly one-hour flight.
There were three crewmembers on board and no patients, according to Hawaii Life Flight. The Coast Guard said contact with the aircraft — reported to be a King Air twin-engine prop plane — was lost about 15 nautical miles south of Hana, located on the easternmost tip of Maui Island.
According to the Coast Guard, weather conditions Thursday were poor but improved Friday to allow crews to search for the plane.
During their search, Coast Guard crews reported seeing a “sheen in the water of the search area” and aircraft debris in the water.
“It has not been confirmed that that debris is from the missing aircraft,” Coast Guard public affairs specialist David Graham said.
The Civil Air Patrol, founded during World War II to provide community support and services, also joined the search. They deployed a Cessna aircraft equipped with high-tech cameras to photograph areas of interest on Saturday after using three other planes on Friday.
“Besides taking photos, we also have our pilots, our mission pilots, as well as our mission scanners and our mission observers that help support the mission,” said Janel Fujinaka, Civil Air Patrol Hawaii Wing public affairs officer.
All Hawaii Life Flight aircraft and crews are on a safety standdown, according to their parent company Global Medical Response (GMR). Gov. Josh Green’s emergency proclamation enabled additional medical teams to go into service on Saturday and a new air ambulance became operational as well.
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GMR said in part through a statement on Saturday:
“In addition to staffing multiple helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft from GMR companies, GMR clinicians will be staffing two Black Hawk helicopters operated by the state… Hawaii Life Flight extends its deepest gratitude to the U.S. Coast Guard, Governor Green, Emergency AirLift and the community for their assistance and continued support during this difficult time.”Global Medical Response spokesperson
The National Transportation Safety Board has not confirmed that debris recovered on Friday in waters off Maui was from the Hawaii Life Flight aircraft and told KHON the search for the plane is still ongoing.
Civil Air Patrol said it is unknown how long the search will last.
“It’s been about more than 24 hours, so it, it could last anywhere from 8 to 10 hours, or even two hours to, you know, a maximum of maybe weeks,” Fujinaka said.
GMR said names and photos of the crew were unable to be released on Saturday.