Woman from Katy area killed in small plane crash in Hawaii

A woman who grew up in the Katy area was one of four bodies recovered from the wreckage of a small plane crash on a remote mountainside near Kunia, northwest of Honolulu, CBS affiliate KGMB-TV reports.

HONOLULU -- A woman who grew up in the Katy area was one of four bodies recovered from the wreckage of a small plane crash on a remote mountainside near Kunia, northwest of Honolulu, CBS affiliate KGMB-TV reports.

The single-engine aircraft went missing Friday night, and authorities located it around 3:20 p.m. on Saturday above the Kunia Loa Ridge Farmlands.

Family members and friends identified the crash victims as 28-year-old Gerrit Evensen, 27-year-old Heather Riley, Alexis Aaron and pilot Dean Hutton, KGMB-TV reports.

Aaron grew up in Katy and attended Mayde Creek High School. She was also an Aggie who studied Marine Biology. 

An uncle of the pilot said the plane might have had maintenance issues. He said Hutton knew of the issues but chose to fly it anyway. He did not elaborate on the what the issues might be.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the aircraft last communicated with air traffic controllers around 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The plane departed from Honolulu's airport, and officials said it diverted from its original flight path.

Officials said it was unclear why the plane was not reported missing until hours later -- on Saturday morning.

KGMB-TV reports that the single-engine plane is registered to Jahn Mueller, who confirmed to the station that he owns the aircraft, but declined to comment on the crash. Mueller had also owned a small plane that crashed into a stream near Moanalua Gardens on June 30, in which three people were seriously injured, according to KGMB-TV.

In a statement, Mueller commended the flight's pilot for minimizing tragedy in that crash. "The plane has a spotless safety record and a new engine, and had been flown just one hour before that particular flight," Mueller said.

The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report on the June 30 incident, saying the plane had  lost engine power shortly after takeoff.

On Saturday, three bodies were discovered inside the plane, while one was found outside, Honolulu Fire Battalion Chief Craig Uchimura said.

"The wreckage was in an area that was very remote and inaccessible by vehicle," Uchimura said, KGMB-TV reports. "Our rescue personnel had to repel off our Air One helicopter to be inserted on the mountainside. It's pretty treacherous up there."

Family and friends of the victims were overwhelmed with grief. Lealyn Toponi said she was supposed to be traveling on the plane with her friends.

"Alexis asked my boyfriend and I to go on the plane with them on Friday, and we weren't able to make it. And so Heather and Gerrit were asked to take our place," she said, according to KGMB-TV. "They were just very open and loving people that were just leaders. They were the kind of people that inspired you to try anything."

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