The plane carried nine people, including Loretta Fuddy, director of Hawaii’s Department of Health. She was the only person to die after the crash off the coast of Kalaupapa, Molokai, on Dec. 11.
“It just bit into me like ‘am I dreaming?’” Puentes told KHON of the water landing.
Image source: Ferdinand Puentes/ABC News
Watch the footage taken by Puentes, which he provided to ABC News:
In the water with a life vest and seat cushion as aids, Puentes said staying afloat was “hard and exhausting” because he was wearing steel-toed boots, work jeans and a long-sleeve shirt, all of which were weighing him down.
Ferdinand Puentes managed to stay afloat while waiting for rescue after the plane went down on Dec. 11. (Image source: Ferdinand Puentes/Facebook)
All passengers had exited the plane and were later reached by rescue swimmers and helicopters. When a swimmer reached Fuddy in the water, he found she was not responsive and didn’t have a pulse.
In the final moments of her life, Fuddy clung to the hand of her deputy, Keith Yamamoto, while floating in the water. Fuddy, who gained notoriety in 2011 for her role in making Obama’s birth certificate public, held hands with Yamamoto as he tried to help her relax, said the Rev. Patrick Killilea, who consoled Yamamoto after the ordeal.
This undated image from video provided by the Hawaii Department of Health shows Hawaii Health Department Director Loretta Fuddy. Fudday was killed after a small plane with nine people aboard crashed into the water off the Hawaiian island of Molokai Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 according to Tom Matsuda, the interim executive director of Hawaii’s health insurance exchange. Fuddy was 65. (AP/Hawaii Deaprtment of Health)
“He recounted how he said he helped Loretta into her life jacket and he held her hand for some time,” the priest told the Associated Press. “They were all floating together, and she let go and there was no response from her.”
Fuddy and Yamamoto were on the flight after an annual visit to Kalaupapa, where the state exiled leprosy patients until 1969. The area is accessible only by plane or mule.
An image snapped by Puentes showing the plane under water. (Image source: Ferdinand Puentes via KHOU-TV)
Since the crash, Puentes told the news station he has a fear of flying, but it has changed his life perspective to not take anything for granted. Thursday, Puentes boarded a flight to help overcome his fear.
“It hurts, but you have to heal, my way of healing, and move forward,” he told KHON.
Watch KHON-TV’s report:
The crash was deemed the result of the plane’s single engine failing shortly after it had taken off.