The pilot, whose name officials refuse to release, claims the plane's engine suffered a catastrophic failure after he heard a large bang shortly after takeoff . The pilot told authorities that he was successful in getting life vests on the planes' eight passengers before it crashed into the ocean about a half-mile offshore. The pilot says that he decided to swim ashore after the passengers began to drift from the crash site. The Coast Guard says it received a distress call around 3:27 p.m. Wednesday afternoon from the pilot of another plane who saw the crash debris. Coast Guard and Maui Fire Rescue helicopters rescued the surviving passengers from the ocean.
The fatal injuries sustained by Fuddy are not mentioned in the news update. The pilot and the other seven passengers suffered no life-threatening injuries. Three passengers remained on the island after being treated and released. The pilot drove himself to a hospital for evaluation after being flown back to Honolulu. There were three other government employees on the plane who were identified, including Deputy Health Director Keith Yamamoto, Rosa Key, a National Park Service administrator at Kalaupapa and Key's husband, Jake. They were treated and released by emergency rescue workers. Two passengers on the plane were flown by helicopter to an airport on Oahu where they were transported to a local hospital, while one passenger was flown by helicopter directly to a hospital on Oahu.
The investigation of the plane crash is being handled by the National Transportation Safety Board and seems to have ended before it started. Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the NTSB, already cast doubt on whether the plane could ever be recovered from the ocean due to rough seas. The plane was owned by Richard Schuman of Makanai Kai Air. The Schuman family has operated various transportation-related businesses in Hawaii for more than a hundred years according to the company's website after emigrating to the islands from Germany. Schuman told the Star-Advertiser that he has known the pilot since 1996. He reportedly flew for Aloha Airlines until it went out of business in 2008. The pilot began working for Schuman's company full-time within the past year.
Naturally, the Star-Advertiser immediately dismissed any conspiracy speculation behind the plane's crash because the government should always be trusted to tell us the truth and launched an attack on "birthers" who speculated otherwise:
Skeptics turned to social media today to suggest that Obama had played some role in Fuddy's death. Twitter posts included: "The WH tying up loose ends?" "What did she really know?" and "R.I.P. Loretta Fuddy -- we'll know the truth about Barack Hussein Obama, regardless."
Donald Trump, a longtime doubter of Obama's birthplace, also weighed in on Twitter: "How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama's 'birth certificate' died in plane crash today. All others lived."
That reaction didn't surprise those who study conspiracy theorists.
Mark Fenster, University of Florida law professor who wrote a book on conspiracy theories, said adherents will search for evidence to support their beliefs, and each piece of news can give their theory new life.
"The theories themselves are a process of stitching together individual facts to form a larger narrative, and this is just one more fact that gets linked to the chain," Fenster said.
Anyone who believes that Obama's birth certificate is fake will find a way to tie the plane crash to their beliefs, said Dan Cassino, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.
It's unclear how many people ascribe to birther beliefs. But a poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University in January found that 36 percent of voters, including 64 percent of Republicans, believed Obama is hiding information about his background.
The Internet has made it easier to spread outlandish theories, Cassino said. Thirty years ago, if you tried to tell people about a farfetched belief, they'd ignore you, he said. But online, "you can go and find a community of people who all agree with you."UPDATE: A local TV report out of Honolulu by KITV News has identified Clyde Kawasaki as the pilot of the plane. The pilot who discovered the downed plane after hearing the plane's transponder and alerting authorities described him as a very experienced pilot who he credited with saving passengers' lives. Interestingly, Kawasaki's name is not identified on the company's staff listing on its website as one of its pilots. A Linkedin page listing Kawasaki identifies him as a captain for Schuman Aviation who worked for Air Pacific/Fiji Airlines until last year.