NTSB investigation into air ambulance crash indicates pilot was disoriented

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The NTSB is reporting new details about the final moments of a fatal air ambulance crash last month, and experts say it appears the pilot was disoriented before losing control of the aircraft.

The new leads were included in preliminary findings issued by the NTSB into the Dec. 15 crash of a Hawaii Life Flight medical transport plane, which called out all three people on board.

Experts told Hawaii News Now the report indicates the pilot became disoriented on a stormy, moonless night.

The plane, a twin-engine Beech 90, was never recovered. The NTSB said it took off from Kahului just before 9:00 p.m., traveled over east Maui, and was about to turn south toward the Big Island when it spiraled out to sea.


Personal injury attorney Rick Fried has represented survivors and families in many aircraft incidents and is also a pilot. He said that in complete darkness, any distraction can lead to a sudden loss of control.

“And once you get the wing up or down, you can start to spiral and it’s too late to get out,” Fried said.

The report details radio communications between pilot Brian Treptow and a Honolulu controller, who directed him to turn toward “Tammi,” an initial approach marker for Kamuela. The controller calls again a minute later to confirm the maneuver. Treptow replies: “Uhh 13GZ is out of navigation here. Let’s give it a chance.

The controller asked to confirm that the spin had occurred and redirected in another direction, indicating that the aircraft was off course. In his last communication, the report says that someone on the plane replied: “Wait.”

Fried said the course corrections and the pilots’ statements were strong indicators that the pilot was lost.

“I think it’s very simple a situation where the pilot got disoriented and veered off course,” Fried said.

“That makes it pretty clear that he was reeling.”

The report says a northbound pilot witnessed the crash and reported: “It began to turn to the right, then entered a spiraling right descending turn, which intensified as the descent increased. The NTSB added: “The witness said he saw the plane continue to descend until it impacted the surface of the water.”

The pilot, who also flew for a local helicopter tour company, flight nurse Courtney Parry and flight paramedic Gabriel Camacho are all presumed dead.

The report does not mention weather conditions or any signs of maintenance or mechanical problems.

The plane was equipped with a cockpit recorder, which could reveal more about what happened.

The NTSB said a salvage attempt is pending.

But the ocean where the plane went down is about 6,000 feet deep.

Fried said he doubts the plane can be found and recovered.