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The strange death of Hawaii’s Department of Health Director, Loretta Fuddy

Special to WorldTribune.com

By Grace Vuoto

The controversy swirling around President Obama’s birth certificate simply will not die. Take a recent plane crash in Hawaii.

Some facts are so striking they require further examination. On Dec. 11, 2013 a small plane in Hawaii on a routine flight in the middle of the day, taking off amidst a clear blue sky, suddenly experienced “catastrophic engine failure,” according to the pilot Clyde Kawasaki.

A procession of Emergency Medical Services vehicles honored the memory of Hawaii’s Health Director Loretta Fuddy last month in Oahu.

A procession of Emergency Medical Services vehicles honored the memory of Hawaii’s Health Director Loretta Fuddy last month in Oahu.

Shortly after the plane soared from Kalaupapa, Molokai, Mr. Kawasaki heard a bang and the engine died. At that moment, all nine passengers faced imminent and inexplicable death.

Yet, due to the remarkable skill of the pilot — he had been flying since the age of 14 and had flown glider planes for many years — he was able to make mayday calls and also land the plane safely on the water.

According to witnesses on the plane, none of the nine passengers suffered any life-threatening injuries during the emergency landing. And most stunning of all, the pilot was able to get each of the passengers into life vests as water flooded into the plane. Everyone made it out.

All nine passengers at this point escaped death not once but twice: the landing had been smooth enough and they were not trapped in the beleaguered vessel as it was engulfed in the merciless sea that eventually claimed the aircraft.

However, once again, the passengers stared death in the face. How long would they be able to float out there in choppy waters? The pilot tried desperately to keep the group together and was increasingly dismayed that his passengers in the pitching waves were getting separated. He had given his life vest to one of the passengers and was clinging to a fellow passenger for dear life in the waves.

One passenger, 70-year-old C. Philip Holstein, an Army veteran, made the brave decision to swim as fast as he could to the rocky shore to get help. That swim would take at least 90 minutes. Would he make it? Would the others survive?

On this strange day, fate intervened again. Another pilot, Josh Lang and his girlfriend Jaimee Thomson, were flying nearby on a leisure trip and spotted the plane in duress.

They saw nine people in the water. They contacted the Molokai tower and flew to the airport at Kalaupapa to look for help. They flew back and hovered over the group to let them know that help was forthcoming.

Had the couple not been so sharp in the decisions they made, the passengers may not have been located until well after dark, say pilots who spoke to Hawaii News Now.

“It was pure luck that we were there when we were, “said Mr. Lang at a press conference. “I wanted to get as much help as I could.”

Miraculously, help came in time. The Coast Guard and fire crews arrived on the scene and began to pull the remaining eight passengers out of the water. Mr. Holstein made it safely to shore. For almost every one of those passengers, death had been defied three times on the same day.

But despite all the skill, luck and striking twists of fate that preserved the lives of most members of this group, one person still died. Who could be so unfortunate?

Death struck the Hawaii Department of Health Director Loretta Fuddy, age 65. She has been at the epicenter of the greatest, ongoing controversy of the Obama administration over a simple but basic question: Is the president eligible to hold office?

Amidst multiple media firestorms, the American public has by and large accepted the president’s election victories as legitimate because of Ms. Fuddy’s most recent work.

In April 2011, as real estate mogul Donald Trump led the crusade for the president to produce his long-form birth certificate, the White House at last complied. Ms. Fuddy confirmed the president’s certificate as authentic.

Yet, on May 14, 2013, Chief Investigator of the Maricopa County Cold Case Posse Lt. Mike Zullo, pursuing a criminal investigation, filed an affidavit to the Supreme Court of Alabama declaring the long-form certificate as a “100 percent forgery,” with testimony by multiple forensic experts. Eight months after that stunning revelation, Ms. Fuddy died.

How exactly did she die? This has yet to be explained. Witnesses saw her get out of the plane in fine shape.

Mr. Holstein described the scene as one where no one was panicking and everyone was helping one another. He said Ms. Fuddy was “not in distress” just before he left the scene and swam to shore. She was clinging to her deputy, Keith Yamamoto, who was also on that flight.

Mr. Yamamoto helped her to put her life jacket on and disembark. There have been no reports that she was bleeding, was in any kind of pain or crying out any more than the others. She was seen floating calmly along with the others, waiting for help.

In fact, Mr. Holstein said in an interview he was surprised to later hear she had died. “She was doing fine out of the airplane,” Mr. Holstein said, according to a report in the Star Advertiser. “Her assistant was really watching her. He was taking care of her.”

The pilot, Mr. Kawasaki, also said in a press conference he did not understand how she died. “I could not understand how that could have happened at the time, excuse me, that she could have passed. I didn’t understand how it could have happened,” he said.

So what killed her? What could possibly have killed only her at this point and not the others?

According to Rev. Patrick Kililea, Mr. Yamamoto was holding her hand in the water and she suddenly drifted away from him and died. When the Coast Guard arrived, she had no pulse.

“He [Mr. Yamamoto] recounted how he said he helped Loretta into her life jacket and he held her hand for some time,” said Rev. Kililea. “They were all floating together and she let go and there was no response from her.”

Since her death, accolades have poured forth from those who knew her well. Apart from her devotion to her work, she was a devout Catholic who sang soprano every week in the choir at St. Theresa Co-Cathedral in Kalihi. She contributed to the school board, the pastoral council and even answered phones in the church office. St. Theresa was like a second home for her, say members of her church family.

“Her faith was so deep. She truly was an advocate for Jesus. She showed other people how to love,” said Music Director Bernie Gora, in a report in HawaiiNewsNow. “I’m not going to hear that high voice of hers anymore,” he said.

The circumstances of her death are so strange that an autopsy has been ordered. Almost one month after the crash, no information has yet been released about the precise cause of death.

Furthermore, the National Transportation Safety Board has recovered the plane and is investigating to determine why the engine suddenly failed. In 20 years, Makani Kai Air, the only airline that serves Kalaupapa, has not had any accidents, according to CEO Richard Schuman.

Poor Ms. Fuddy: Evidently, for some people death can be defied three times in one day. Yet, only for her, there was a fourth challenge.

Grace Vuoto is the Editor of Politics and Culture at World Tribune, host of American Heartland with Dr. Grace on WTSB Radio and is the founder of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal.

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