The wreckage of the medevac King Air that went missing off Maui on December 15 has been recovered along with the bodies of the pilot and two medical crewmembers. Salvagers discovered the wreckage in approximately 6,420 feet of water, 1,200 feet south of the aircraft’s last ADS-B fix.
Registered as N13GZ, the 22-year-old King Air C90A was being operated by Guardian Life Flight and was en route to a patient pickup at Waimea on the island of Hawaii. The airplane crashed at approximately 9:14 p.m. local time. Weather conditions reported at the time were VMC with visibility of 10 miles. The aircraft was on an IFR flight plan from the Kahului airport (KOGG) on Maui to Waimea-Kohala airport (KMUE).
In its preliminary report on the accident, the NTSB noted that after departure the turboprop twin climbed per instructions to 13,000 feet and was on course. However, six minutes before the crash, the pilot began to have increasing difficulty complying with ATC course instructions, first flying a course of 200 degrees when instructed to fly one of 180 degrees and then failing to follow an instruction to turn and fly direct to Tammi, the initial approach fix for the RNAV (GPS) 4 approach for KMUE.
According to the NTSB, less than a minute before the crash, the pilot reported that he was “off navigation” and was “gonna give it a try” to fly direct to Tammi. ATC then instructed him to make a right turn to 170 degrees and maintain an altitude of 8,000 feet. Eleven seconds later, a radio call to ATC from someone believed to be the accident pilot said simply, “Hang on.” It was the last radio call from the aircraft.
The pilot of a Piper PA-44 in the area reported observing N13GZ at 12,000 feet descending to 8,000 feet, turning right, and then making a spiral descent to impact.