A small plane used for skydiving crashed and burst into flames near the perimeter of a small seaside airport on the island of Oahu, killing all nine people aboard, officials said Saturday.
Preliminary information gathered by the Federal Aviation Administration indicated that the crash of the twin-engine Beechcraft King Air plane Friday evening happened as the plane took off from Dillingham Airfield on the north shore of the island, FAA spokesman Greg Martin said in a statement.
Some witnesses reported that the plane crashed as it was inbound to the airport, said Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves, cautioning that those reports had not been confirmed.
He described the site of the crash as being “quite a ways away from the runway” and said that some family members of those aboard were at the airport when the plane went down at about 6:30 p.m.
“In my 40 years as a firefighter here in Hawaii, this is the most tragic aircraft incident that we’ve had,” Neves said.
The plane was engulfed in flames when firefighters made it to the crash site about an hour drive from Honolulu, Neves said. Officials initially said six people were aboard, but raised the number later to nine. The victims were not identified.
Two FAA inspectors went to the crash site Friday and investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board that will investigate the crash were expected to arrive Saturday evening, said safety board spokesman Eric Weiss.
The plane with two turboprop engines was manufactured in 1967, FAA records said.
AP Airlines Writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.