Coast Guard Continues Search for Downed Beechcraft Pilot

HONOLULU — U.S. Coast Guard air and surface crews continue to search waters seven miles south of Lihue International Airport on Kauai for the pilot of a twin-engine Beechcraft 1900, which was last reported in that position at 5:08 a.m. Monday.

The 38-year-old male pilot was the only person aboard the Beechcraft, which was last seen on radar 100 feet above the ocean’s surface. The pilot was carrying cargo on a regularly scheduled flight.

Coast Guard air crews flew five different sorties during the day on a search which has now encompassed more than 100 square miles. In addition, the crew of the 87-foot patrol boat Kittiwake has been on scene since 9 a.m. and has recovered debris from the downed plane.

The Kittiwake — and a 25-foot SAFE boat from Station Kauai — recovered small pieces of the Beechcraft’s fuselage and at least 15 mailbags. The plane was contracted to carry U.S. mail.

The Beechcraft left Honolulu International Airport at 4:30 a.m. Monday morning, and was to have landed in Lihue less than an hour later. The Coast Guard first spotted debris at 8:50 a.m. in a position seven miles south of the airport.

The 225-foot buoy tender Walnut has been diverted to assist in the search and will join the Kittiwake on search patterns through the night. In addition, an HH-65 Dolphin helicopter is being re-fueled at Lihue and will search overnight.

Coast Guard crews report the on-scene weather as challenging and worsening through the day, with wind from the northeast at greater than 25 knots and seas of almost 20 feet in the Kauai Channel. The water temperature is 74 degrees and air temperatures ranged between the upper 60s and low 70s.

“We have narrowed the search area considerably and will work quickly this afternoon and through the night,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Conroy, a search and rescue controller with the Coast Guard’s Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu. “Our search patterns account for the strong winds, currents and seas and we are confident we have brought as many search assets to bear as possible.”

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