HONOLULU (AP) — A medical transport plane with three crew members on board has gone missing on a flight between Maui and the Big Island, according to a company statement.
“Global Medical Response is able to confirm that one of our Maui-based Hawaii Life Flight emergency planes went under radar while en route to pick up a patient in Waimea, Big Island,” the company said in a statement released Friday .
The patient was not on the plane, which lost radar contact around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, it said.
“We are in the process of reaching out to their families,” the statement said.
The company also supports search and rescue teams.
The Coast Guard said air traffic controllers lost radar contact with the plane about 17 miles (27 kilometers) south of Hana, Maui, in the Pacific Ocean’s Maui Channel.
The Coast Guard says they are searching with boats, a helicopter and a cargo plane. The guard said one of their planes spotted a glow in the search area. It also reported that one of its patrol boats recovered debris in the area, but there was no confirmation that it was the missing plane.
Global Medical Response said it temporarily halted Hawaii Life Flight transportation, prompting Gov. Josh Green to issue a declaration of emergency, allowing the state to supplement Hawaii’s medical flight capacity in the meantime.
The proclamation allows the Hawaii National Guard to fly Blackhawk helicopters to transport patients. It will also allow AirMed International, a sister company of Hawaii Life Flight, to bring an aircraft and crew members to Hawaii from the US mainland.
Many hospitals on Hawaii’s more rural islands are small and offer limited medical services compared to Honolulu’s larger hospitals. Patients with more serious, urgent medical conditions often need to be transported to Oahu for treatment.
Green, who is also a doctor and worked long hours as an EMS doctor on the Big Island before becoming governor this month, spoke from his own experience of the importance of the flights.
“I’m very familiar with this, having taken care of patients for decades and have relied on this exceptional service when someone has had a major heart attack or had a horrific accident,” Green said at a news conference.
He said typically 10 to 15 patients per day are transferred between the islands.
American Medical Response Hawaii general manager Speedy Bailey said patients would not incur any additional costs due to the transportation alternatives used.
Associated Press writer Mark Thiessen contributed to this report from Anchorage, Alaska.
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