Hawaii crash claims 9 men, 2 women, most in their late 20s

A Beechcraft King Air twin-engine plane crashed Friday evening killing multiple people and leaving wreckage near a chain link fence surrounding Dillingham Airfield seen Saturday, June 22, 2019, in Mokuleia, Hawaii. (AP)
Updated 24 June 2019

Hawaii crash claims 9 men, 2 women, most in their late 20s

  • Dillingham Airfield is used mostly for skydiving and glider flights

HONOLULU: Casey Williamson’s love of adventure led him to winter snowboarding in Vail, Colorado, and summer skydiving in Moab, Utah. A year-and-a-half ago, he found his way to Hawaii, where he could skydive year-round.
On Friday, the 29-year-old was among 11 killed when their skydiving plane crashed and burned at a coastal airfield on the island of Oahu. It was the worst civilian aviation accident in the US since 2011.
Williamson was his mother Carla Ajaga’s only child, his cousin Natacha Mendenhall said.
“We’re all very upset,” said Mendenhall, speaking from her home in Fort Worth, Texas. “She cannot really talk right now. What she wants everyone to know is how full of life her son was, how loving he was.”
Williamson, who was from Yukon, Oklahoma, worked as an instructor and as a videographer who filmed customers as they dove. He was trying to earn more jumping hours and learn the trade, Mendenhall said.
Williamson’s family has not been officially notified of his death. But they provided Honolulu police with Williamson’s name and date of birth, and the police confirmed he was on the flight, Mendenhall said.
No one aboard survived the crash, which left a small pile of smoky wreckage near the chain link fence surrounding Dillingham Airfield about an hour north of Honolulu.
Police told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the victims were nine men and two women. Both women and three of the men were all in their late 20s. Police, who didn’t return messages to The Associated Press, didn’t have ages on the six others.
Names of the victims have not been released. A spokesman for the mayor’s office says the earliest any information will be released by the Honolulu Medical Examiner’s Office will be Monday.
Steven Tickemyer said he saw the plane take flight, get 75 to 100 feet (22 to 30 meters) off the ground and turn away from the mountain range nearby.
He said the plane then started to nosedive and flip over belly forward so that it was upside down. The aircraft then flipped over again and hit the ground nose first. There was an explosion when it hit the ground.
This all transpired in about 20 to 30 seconds, said Tickemyer, who watched from a beach across the street where he was attending a friend’s small wedding ceremony.
He and his friends hopped in his truck, called 911 and drove over to help. They screamed to see if anyone would respond, but no one did, he said.
The crash appeared to be the worst US civil aviation accident since a 2011 accident at the Reno Air Show in Nevada that killed the pilot and 10 spectators.
Officials in Hawaii initially reported that nine people had died and that three of them were customers of the skydiving company operating the plane and that six were employees. But the Hawaii Department of Transportation tweeted Saturday that officials later “confirmed there were 11 people on board the plane” and no survivors. They were not identified.
The flight was operated by the Oahu Parachute Center skydiving company. The ratio of employees to customers aboard suggested that tandem jumps may have been planned in which the customers would have jumped while attached to experienced skydivers, Tim Sakahara, a spokesman for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, told reporters.
Witness Wylie Schoonover saw the plane flying over trees while driving from a nearby YMCA camp after picking up a friend. Then she saw smoke billowing from the airfield and drove over.
There was an “insane amount of fire,” she said.
“It didn’t even look like a plane. A bunch of people were asking ‘what is this?’ It was completely gone,” Schoonover said.
The same plane was involved in a terrifying midair incident three years ago in Northern California that prompted the 14 skydivers aboard to jump earlier than planned to safety.
In that 2016 incident near Byron, California, the twin-engine plane stalled three times and spun repeatedly before the pilot at that time managed to land it safely, the National Transportation Safety Board said in an investigative report. The report blamed pilot error.
Investigators found that the plane had lost a piece of horizontal stabilizer and that the plane’s elevator had broken off. The plane was also too heavily weighted toward the back, which was also blamed on the pilot.
The plane with two turboprop engines was manufactured in 1967, Federal Aviation Administration records said.
No one answered the phone at Oahu Parachute Center, which advertises its services on a web site saying its jumps offer people “a magical experience.” Tandem jumps are featured at prices ranging from $170 to $250.
Dillingham Airfield is used mostly for skydiving and glider flights. Hawaii shares the airfield with the Army, which uses it for helicopter night-vision training.


A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

Updated 25 min 24 sec ago

A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

  • Will give migrants a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes torn apart by partition of 1947

NEW DELHI: Sparsh Ahuja and Ameena Malak grew up listening to their grandparents narrate stories of the partition from 1947.
Ahuja’s grandfather, Ishar Das Arora, was 7 years old when the Indian subcontinent was divided into two by the British, creating India and Pakistan. 
More than 14 million people were displaced at the time, and about one million perished in the fighting that followed.
Arora moved from a Pakistani village, named Bela, to Delhi after living in several refugee camps and escaping the violence.
Meanwhile, Malak’s grandfather, Ahmed Rafiq, moved from the Indian city of Hoshiarpur to Pakistan’s Lahore.
Now in their 70s, both the grandparents yearn to go back home and see the places where they were born and spent their childhoods. 
However, the constant uncertainty in the relationship between India and Pakistan and their old age has made the task of visiting their respective birthplaces extremely difficult.
To fulfill the wishes of their grandparents, and several others who yearn to visit their ancestral homelands, Ahuja and Malak decided to launch Project Dastaan (story).
“What started as an idea for a student project last year at Oxford University became a larger peace-building venture,” Ahuja, the director of the project, said.
Project Dastaan is a university-backed virtual reality (VR) peace-building initiative reconnecting displaced survivors of partition with their childhood through bespoke 360-degree digital experiences.
Backed by the South Asia Programme at Oxford, it uses VR headsets to give these migrants, who are often over 80 years old, a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes. It shows them the people and places they most want to see again by finding the exact locations and memories that the survivors seek to revisit, and recreates them.
“It is a creative effort to start a new kind of conversation based on the direct experience of a now-foreign country in the present, rather than relying upon records and memories from the past,” Ahuja told Arab News.
He added that Pakistan-based Khalid Bashir Rai “teared up after his VR experience, and told us we had transported him back” to his childhood.
“At its heart, the project is a poignant commentary on its own absurdity. By taking these refugees back we are trying to highlight the cultural impact of decades of divisive foreign policy and sectarian conflict on the subcontinent. This is a task for policymakers, not university students. In an ideal world, a project like this shouldn’t exist,” Ahuja said.
Other members of Project Dastaan — Saadia Gardezi and Sam Dalrymple — have a connection with partition, too. Gardezi grew up with partition stories; her grandmother volunteered at refugee camps in Lahore, and her grandfather witnessed terrible violence as a young man.
Dalrymple’s grandfather had been a British officer in India during the twilight years of the British Empire. So scarred was he by the partition that he never visited Dalrymple’s family in Delhi, even after 30 years of them living there.
“I think Dastaan is ultimately about stripping away the layers of politics and trying to solve a very simple problem: That children forced to leave their homes, have never been able to go back again,” Dalrymple told Arab News.
Ahuja added: “The partition projects are a peace offering in the heart of hostility. It is an attempt at creating a wider cultural dialogue between citizens and policymakers of the three countries.”
The project aims to reconnect 75 survivors of the partition of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh with their childhood memories, when the subcontinent observes 75 years of partition in 2022.
Project Dastaan is also producing a documentary called “Child of Empire” that will put viewers in the shoes of a 1947 partition migrant, and will be shown at film festivals and museums.