Company behind skydiving plane crash did not have proper permits
This is the site where a Beechcraft King Air twin-engine plane crashed Friday evening killing multiple people seen on Saturday, June 22, 2019, in Mokuleia, Hawaii. (Dennis Oda/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP)
Caleb Jones, The Associated Press
Published Friday, July 12, 2019 12:55AM EDT
HONOLULU -- The Hawaii skydiving company that was operating a plane that crashed and killed 11 people last month did not have the proper permits, according to documents released by the state Wednesday.
The documents show Oahu Parachute Center was "not in good standing" with the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs as of April. It was also not a registered tenant for the state land it occupied at the airport.
The owner, George Rivera, was granted a permit in 2010 for a company under a different name -- Hawaii Parachute Center -- that allowed parachute repairs and rigging, but not skydiving operations.
State business records show Oahu Parachute Center was established in 2017, but the state never granted the company a permit to give skydiving tours.
Two years later, on April 16, the Department of Transportation Airports Division sent Rivera a cease and desist letter giving him until May 15 to produce tax and other business documents.
Then, on June 5 -- two weeks before the crash -- officials sent a permit application for skydiving operations to Rivera.
The application gave him 30 days to produce documents including tax clearance certificates for both the county and the state, a certificate of good standing from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, a certificate of registration and proof of ownership for the plane, the aircraft's log books and inspection records, a certification of airworthiness and proof of insurance.
It also required payment of nearly $30,000 for a security deposit and rent for the space the company was using on state airport land.
Rivera did not submit the permitting documents before the plane rolled upside down and crashed shortly after takeoff on June 21. All 11 people on board were killed in what became the deadliest civil aviation crash in the U.S. since 2011.
Five days after the crash the state revoked the 2010 permit and evicted the company from its space at the airport, citing violations.
The June 26 notice said the owner failed to obtain state approval to operate as a skydiving company and that it did not register the plane that crashed.
The 2010 permit was issued "for the purpose of Parachute Loft with the understanding that (Hawaii Parachute Center) was conducting activities at the airport as a parachute rigger," the letter said.
It is not clear why the company was allowed to take customers skydiving without the required permits. A request for further information from the Department of Transportation was denied. Attempts to contact George Rivera were unsuccessful.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the plane was operated by Oahu Parachute Center but was owned by N80896 LLC, a California company.
The president of that company, William Garcia, confirmed to The Associated Press that he was the registered owner of the aircraft. His company also owned the airplane when it was in another skydiving accident in California in 2016. The aircraft sustained significant damage, but was repaired and sent to Oahu to be flown again.
In its preliminary report released Tuesday, the NTSB said two skydivers made a last-minute decision to board the plane just before it crashed.
The NTSB did not provide a cause for the crash, which is typical for preliminary reports.
The report also said a witness to the crash reported the plane's engines sounded normal before takeoff, but shortly after it left the ground the aircraft became inverted and crashed nose down.
The witness, who was a parachute instructor for Oahu Parachute Center, was not named.
The final seconds of the flight were captured by airport surveillance video. An NTSB spokesman said the footage could not be immediately released.
The doomed flight was the fourth of five scheduled skydiving trips for that day.