Skydiving plane in Hawaii crash was involved in previous terrifying incident

Jorge L. Ortiz
Skydiving plane in Hawaii crash was involved in previous terrifying incident

The skydiving plane that crashed this weekend in Hawaii, killing all 11 on board, was also involved in a frightening midair incident in Northern California three years before.

Federal investigators are trying to determine why the twin-engine turboprop plane went down shortly after takeoff Friday, leaving a smoky pile of wreckage near the fence surrounding Dillingham Airfield northwest of Honolulu in the worst civil aviation accident in the U.S. since 2011.

National Transportation Safety Board records show that same aircraft, built in 1967, stalled three times and spun another three during a 2016 skydiving flight in the eastern San Francisco Bay Area, forcing 14 skydivers to jump to safety.

The NTSB’s investigative report blamed the incident on error by the pilot, who managed the land the plane safely, though it lost a piece of the horizontal stabilizer and had the elevator break off.

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Remnants of an aircraft carrying at least nine people lies on the ground near a fence that surrounds Dillingham Airfield in Mokuleia, just off Farrington Highway.

The agency plans to review the plane's repair and inspection records from that incident.

“We will be looking at the quality of those repairs and whether it was inspected and whether it was airworthy,” the NTSB’s Jennifer Homendy said Sunday.

The plane was equipped to carry 13 people, she said.

“Weight and balance has a factor in the safety of these operations and that’s a calculation that needs to be made before a plane is operated,” she said.

The NSTB will issue a preliminary report in about two weeks. The final report, which will include the cause of the accident, could take up to two years, but Homendy said the NTSB has at times issued urgent safety recommendations before the final report, if warranted.

Witnesses to Friday’s accident said the aircraft was flying at low altitude after takeoff when it started to nosedive and flipped twice before hitting the ground nose first, causing a fiery explosion.

Steven Tickemyer said he watched the crash from a beach across the street where he was attending a wedding. Tickemyer and his friends called 911 and drove to the accident site on his truck to help but couldn’t find any survivors.

Another witness, Wylie Schoonover, saw the plane flying over trees while driving from a nearby YMCA camp, then saw smoke billowing from the airfield and drove over, finding an “insane amount of fire,’’ she said.

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“It didn’t even look like a plane. A bunch of people were asking, ‘What is this?’ It was completely gone,” Schoonover said.

Hawaii officials initially said nine people had perished in the crash, three of them customers of the Oahu Parachute Center skydiving company, but the Hawaii Department of Transportation later tweeted that the number of victims was 11.

They have not been officially identified, although the relatives of skydiving videographer Casey Williamson, 29, said Honolulu police confirmed to them he was on the flight.

“Casey Williamson was one of a kind who lived life to the fullest,’’ the family said in a statement. “He was a free-spirited lover of life and people. He was a friend to all he met. His smile and love for life was contagious. Our family will not be the same without our sweet Casey."

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Skydiving plane in Hawaii crash was involved in previous terrifying incident