By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER
HONOLULU — It could take some time before officials determine exactly how Hawaii Health Director Loretta Fuddy died, said the lead investigator for the Molokai plane crash.
It’s common for a cause of death not to be immediately known in these types of investigations, Hawaii-based National Transportation Safety Board investigator Jim Struhsaker said Friday.
Fuddy was the sole fatality out of nine people aboard the Makani Kai Air flight that crashed in the water soon after taking off from Kalaupapa on Dec. 11. A passenger and the pilot have said they were shocked to hear she didn’t survive because she seemed fine in the moments after everyone got out of the plane and waited in the water for help to arrive.
It’s been a week since an autopsy was conducted. Fuddy’s funeral is scheduled for Saturday in Honolulu.
“Most people think cause of death is really simple … and usually it’s not quite that simple,” Struhsaker said.
Maui police Lt. William Juan has said the NTSB is involved in determining a cause of death. However, the NTSB says that’s up to Maui County.
“I am the lead investigator over the accident but I don’t have jurisdiction over the county,” Struhsaker said, adding that the NTSB can provide information that will help determine a cause of death.
The investigation involves interviewing the people who were near Fuddy in the water, Struhsaker said.
Meanwhile, Struhsaker was making arrangements to ship the plane’s engine in a crate to its manufacturer, Pratt &Whitney Canada, in Montreal, where it will be taken apart for analysis.
“I know this is a priority item for us,” he said, but noted it may be after the holidays before it can be examined.
Pilot Clyde Kawasaki said there was a loud bang when the plane lost power in what he described as “catastrophic engine failure.”
A salvage dive team recovered the engine from the ocean earlier this week. “The Pacific has had its way with it for five days,” Struhsaker said.
The NTSB could issue a preliminary report 10 to 15 days from the crash, said Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the agency in Washington, D.C. A full report with probable cause and recommendations could take between a year and 18 months.
Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .