HONOPU — Kaua‘i police on Wednesday identified the victims of the ultralight crash this week on the North Shore as the chief pilot and owner of Kaua‘i Aerosports and his passenger.
The pilot, Steve Sprague, 48, of Kalaheo and his passenger, 53-year-old Ray Foreman of Vista, Calif., died Tuesday morning when the light sport aircraft Sprague was flying plummeted into waters off Honopu Beach.
The U.S. Coast Guard notified police dispatch of the crash at approximately 10:53 a.m.
“We are all saddened by this tragedy and our hearts go out to the families of the victims,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. “We are grateful to those who assisted in the recovery of the victims and will stand ready to assist investigators as they determine the cause of the terrible accident.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.
Jim Struhsaker, the senior air safety investigator for NTSB, said he went on a boat with a team of seven to recover the aircraft Wednesday. A local helicopter company assisted. The light sport aircraft, known as a P&M “Quik,” has been stationed in a hangar at the Lihu‘e Airport.
Struhsaker said he spent the day interviewing witnesses. He plans to inspect the aircraft today.
“It’s pretty badly broken up after crashing into the ocean,” he said.
Passengers of a tour boat, along with several people on the beach, witnessed the crash occur some 100 yards off shore and brought the victims, both unresponsive, on board. Witness Brad Pryor said he heard the plane make two popping sounds shortly before it hit the water.
Ocean Safety lifeguards first arrived on scene on jet ski at about noon. Fire rescuers aboard Zodiac 1 arrived at the boat about 12:39 p.m. to recover the bodies.
According to a Yelp.com review, written by Sprague, Kaua‘i Aerosports was formed in 2009 by himself and his wife, Anna.
“Although originally brought to the Island of Kauai by a job offer from another flight company, they were simply not satisfied with the safety level nor the ethics of the current businesses already present,” Sprague wrote. “After attempting to work for both the other companies to no avail, the decision was made to return to owning and operating their own.”
An attempt to reach Kaua‘i Aerosports for comment was unsuccessful.
The NTSB is also investigating the death of another owner of a powered hang glider business on island. Jim Gaither of Big Sky Kaua‘i crashed a light sport aircraft off Glass Beach on Feb. 15. His passenger was also killed in the crash.
• Jessica Musicar, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or by e-mailing email@example.com.