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Survivors of plane ditched off Kona are rescued Friday morning (July 15)

HONOLULU — Survivors of a downed small plane were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard off Kona, Thursday, following a joint search involving the U.S. Navy, Royal New Zealand air force, U.S. Air Force and Coast Guard crews.

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew hoisted the survivors at 11:35 a.m. Friday (July 15) about nine miles north of the Kona airport, a mile and half offshore. They were flown to the airport where they were met by awaiting emergency medical crews and treated for minor injuries.

A commercial helicopter flying along the Kona coast sighted a debris field and reported it to the Coast Guard. One of the Dolphin crews was diverted to investigate and sighted the survivors. They vectored in a second Dolphin crew with a rescue swimmer aboard to conduct the hoist. The survivors were both wearing lifejackets and were swimming toward shore at the time.

Involved in the search were:

  • HC-130 Hercules airplane crews and MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews from Air Station Barbers Point
  • A Navy MH-60R helicopter crew from the USS Chung Hoon (DDG-93) and the crew of the ship
  • The USCGC Galveston Island (WPB-1349)
  • A Royal New Zealand air force P3K2 Orion airplane crew
  • MC-130J Commando II airplane crew from the 353rd Special Operations Group from Kadena Air Base, Japan

At 3:15 p.m. Thursday (July 14) watchstanders at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu received notification from Honolulu control facility personnel that the pilot of a dual engine aircraft with two people aboard radioed them reporting and in air emergency. The tower confirmed they then lost contact with the pilot and the plane no longer appeared on radar.

The plane was reportedly traveling to Kona from Oahu, not Maui as previously reported, with the last known position approximately 25 miles northwest of Kona. A Navy P3 Orion airplane was on approach to Kona and overheard the pilot’s call to the tower. The Orion crew initially diverted to investigate the report, but is not involved in the search.

Watchstanders immediately issued an urgent marine information broadcast advising mariners in the area to keep a sharp lookout and report any sightings to JRCC. They also directed the launch of assets to respond.

The Chung Hoon is homeported in Pearl Harbor. The Galveston Island is homeported in Honolulu. The Chung Hoon, Royal New Zealand air force and U.S. Air Force are participating in RIMPAC 2016.

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