Debris spotted in search for man, woman after plane goes missing off Kona coast

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KAILUA-KONA — Debris has been located Friday morning in the search for a man and a woman after they apparently had to ditch their twin-engine plane off the Kona Coast.

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KAILUA-KONA — Debris has been located Friday morning in the search for a man and a woman after they apparently had to ditch their twin-engine plane off the Kona Coast.

U.S. Coast Guard officials said debris was sighted by an Orion crew at 8:19 a.m. about 52 miles northwest of Kailua-Kona. The Coast Guard’s 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.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Sara Mooers identified the two on board as 26-year-old David McMahon, of Kailua, Oahu, and Sidney Uemoto, who is in her 20s.

The man and woman were aboard a Piper Apache traveling from Maui to Kona International Airport when the pilot radioed air traffic control around 3:15 p.m. Thursday to report an air emergency and were likely going to have to ditch the aircraft in the water, said Lt. Scott Carr, with the District 14 public affairs office.

Shortly thereafter that plane disappeared from radar, he said.

Initial reports indicated there were three people aboard the dual engine aircraft, however, Carr said officials spoke with family members of those on board who confirmed two people were making the trip.

At the time of the incident, a U.S. Navy p3 Orion aircraft was on approach to Kona International Airport and the crew overheard the pilot’s emergency call to the tower. They initially diverted to investigate the report, but are not involved in the ongoing search Friday.

Watchstanders immediately advised mariners to keep a sharp lookout and report any sightings to the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu. Anyone with information should call 535-3333.

An array of assets were also launched to assist in the search.

Searching Friday morning were an HC-130 Hercules airplane, MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, Navy MH-60R helicopter, the USS Chung Hoon, USGS Galveston Island, as well as international assets, including a P3 aircraft out of New Zealand, participating in RIMPAC 2016 exercises, said Carr.

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On-scene conditions appeared to be deteriorating Friday morning with winds and waves picking up. Whitecaps were becoming present. A small craft advisory is in effect for the area.

“The Coast Guard is doing everything we can right now,” Carr said.

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