Kauai, Hawaii – A senior Hawaii health official who rose to prominence when she released to President Barack Obama a copy of his birth certificate in 2011 was killed on Wednesday in a plane crash off the island of Molokai, officials said on Thursday.
All of the plane’s seven other passengers and the pilot survived with various injuries, including one who swam to shore, U.S. Coast Guard search and rescue controller Darin McCracken said.
Loretta Fuddy, director of the Hawaii Department of Health, was killed in the crash, which took place northwest of the island’s Kalaupapa peninsula, according to department official Fenix Grange. Her deputy Keith Yamamoto survived.
Local media reported the flight was operated by Makani Kai Air, which could not immediately be reached for comment.
Makani Kai Air owner Richard Schuman told Hawaii television station KITV4 that the crash was caused by engine failure and that the pilot tried to bring the plane down safely and keep the passengers together after they were in the ocean. Schuman did not immediately respond to calls requesting comment.
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie appointed Fuddy as health director in 2011. She previously held other leadership positions in the state, including chief of the Family Health Services Division.
Amid accusations from so-called “birthers” who erroneously claimed Obama was not born in the United States, an attorney for the president wrote to Fuddy in April 2011 requesting the release to the White House of a long-form version of the president’s birth certificate.
Days later, Fuddy sent a letter to Obama saying she was releasing to him copies of the original certificate of live birth. She said that “in recognition of your status as President of the United States,” she was making an exception to her department’s policy of only releasing a computer-generated certified copy.
Obama then released a copy of that longer version of his birth certificate to answer the widely discredited claims he was not born in the United States. In doing so, he blasted “carnival barkers” who refused to let the issue go.
A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said the agency was investigating the crash.