At least 11 killed in Hawaii skydiving plane crash
A Kentuckian working as a skydiving instructor was among the 11 people killed in a small plane crash Friday in Hawaii, a former employer and family member said.
The crash was the deadliest civil aviation accident since 2011, according to the Associated Press. The plane was operated by the Oahu Parachute Center, and all passengers, including Larry Lemaster, died.
Originally from Russell, Ky., Lemaster had amassed more than 3,000 skydiving jumps in his career, according to a Team Fastrax member’s page. His Facebook page states he attended Ashland Community & Technical College and served in the U.S. Army.
Team Fastrax, an Ohio-based skydiving center for which Lemaster previously worked, said in a Facebook post that hearts were broken.
“In all the years we have known Larry, he never said a negative word about anyone,” the Facebook post said. “He impacted everyone he met in a positive way through kindness and love for all. We can learn a lot from Larry Lemaster and how he ‘lived’ his life.”
Anna Elkins, the mother of Lemaster’s son, wrote on Facebook that her pain and anguish over Lemaster’s death were indescribable.
She flew to Hawaii on Sunday to be with her son, Gunner, she said.
“I don’t have an explanation for the utter tragedy that has happened,” Elkins wrote. “But Larry Lemaster would never want one person to waste a single minute of their life mourning his. He was doing what he loved. We spoke about this on many occasions. He wants you to celebrate his life and your own.”
Federal investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board will review repair and inspection records of the plane, which sustained substantial damage to its tail section in a 2016 accident, according to Associated Press.
A witness said the plane nosedived shortly after its takeoff just north of Honolulu, AP reported. The cause of the crash is not known.
Six of the 11 victims worked for the parachute center, including Lemaster, Hawaii News Now reported. Dozens of people have commented on Lemaster’s Facebook page, sharing stories of skydiving with him.
John Hart, one of the Team Fastrax founding members, told CNN, “there wasn’t anybody like” Lemaster. He said Lemaster took wounded combat veterans skydiving.
“He just saw the good in everyone,” Hart said. “I’ve never met a person like him, and I probably never will.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.