Joint search for two pilots off Kona coast continues Friday

65 Barbers PointHONOLULU — A joint search for two pilots from a small plane reportedly downed off the Kona coast continues, Friday.

Currently searching are a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew, the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Galveston Island (WPB-1349), a Navy MH-60R helicopter off the USS Chung Hoon (DDG-93) and a Royal New Zealand Air Force P3K2 Orion airplane. The Chung Hoon and Orion aircrew are here participating in RIMPAC.

The search area has been extended out to 45 miles offshore. Debris was sighted by the Orion crew at 8:19 a.m. about 52 miles northwest of Kona. The Galveston Island has been diverted to that location to investigate and determine if it is from the missing plane. They are expected on scene at 10:30 a.m. and will attempt to relocate the debris.

Current weather is forecast as variable winds less than 10 mph to the west of Kona, but further out winds are 10 to 20 mph with seas at 4 to 7 feet. A small craft advisory is also in effect for the area until Saturday at 6 p.m.

At 3:15 p.m. Thursday watchstanders at Joint Rescue Coordination Center 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 Maui, 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 was not involved in the search.

Anyone with information that may help locate the two pilots is asked to contact JRCC at 808-535-3333.

Coast Guard aircraft involved in the search are from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point. The Galveston Island is homeported in Honolulu and the Chung Hoon is homeported in Pearl Harbor.

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