The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating the circumstances surrounding a Maui helicopter crew that dropped a wrecked plane into the ocean off Maui Tuesday.
The helicopter was transporting the small Piper Cherokee airplane from the wreckage site near Waiehu Beach, Maui when the crew dropped the aircraft about a mile offshore.
Ivan Bersamin snapped photos from his Waiehu home. Soon he stopped shooting, and stood their in awe.
"I guess all of a sudden the plane just released and fell into the ocean," says Bersamin, a Waiehu resident. "It made a big splash and that was it, the plane was gone," says Bersamin.
We're told the helicopter is owned by Pacific Helicopters out of Kahului. The company is known for its salvage operations. Bersamin says he was excited to see it show up Tuesday evening to remove the plane from the brush. But after the chopper lifted the plane and tried to fly away, witnesses say it ran into a problem.
"The plane was just rocking back and forth in the strong wind and then he was trying to control the helicopter but he was having a really hard time picking up altitude.
Bersamin tells us the harder the chopper fought, the more the plane rocked and weather wasn't on the pilots side.
"I don't know why they did it late in the afternoon when the high winds were howling," says Bersamin.
The initial plane crash happened Sunday evening. According to the FAA, the pilot of the plane declared an emergency around 5:40 p.m. when he encountered engine problems three to four miles from Kahului Airport. He was flying from Maui to Honolulu.
The pilot then landed the plane among nau paka bushes and other shrubs in an area near Waiehu Beach park just west of Wailuku.
None of the four people aboard was hurt, but the plane was heavily damaged.
The decision on whether to recover the Cherokee plane from the ocean is up to the owner and their insurance company.