TODAY announced this morning, 6/24/2019, that a private plane carrying 11 people went down in Hawaii, killing all on board. The twin-engine plane packed with skydivers that went down just seconds after takeoff may be connected to a previous terrifying incident in California.
Residents said they ran as fast as they could but there was nothing they could do. Carlos Zapata, who works for the Oahu Parachute Center as a driver, said he saw the explosion after dropping off tourists Bryan and Ashley Weikel to board the aircraft.
The crash happened Friday just after take-off at an airfield on the island of Oahu and marks the nation’s deadliest civilian plane crash since 2011. The National Transportation Safety Board is on scene in Oahu combing through the wreckage of what’s left of the Beechcraft skydiving plane, reports CBS News’ Jonathan Vigliotti.
It has been discovered the same plane was involved in another incident in California when it stalled mid-air causing skydivers scrambling to jump out. Skydivers recorded pieces of the aircraft falling in the sky. The NTSB determined it to be pilot error, blaming, “The pilot’s inadequate pre-flight weight and balance calculations.”
The damaged plane was repaired and put back into the service with the Oahu Parachute Center in Hawaii.
Witnesses said the damaged plane had just taken off and was only in the air for about 30 seconds when it started to roll, crashing upside down.
Bryan Weikel’s (onboard) family says he and Ashley had been together for 10 years but went to Hawaii to celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary.
“I don’t remember a day on this planet without that kid, you know. He was my best friend,” said Bryan’s brother, Kenneth Weikel. His mother, Kathy Weikel-Gerk said, “Bryan and Ashley were like a shining example of what humanity used to be and what humanity needs to be. That was them.”
Six of those killed worked for the parachute center, including instructors Larry Lemaster, who leaves behind a young son, Casey Williamson, a videographer, and Mike Martin, whose girlfriend visited the crash site for the first time with their dog. Josh Drablos, a graduate of the naval academy and Daniel Herndon, a skydiver instructor were also on board.
Ref. Today/NBC, today.com, cbsnews.com
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