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Underwater video shows Navy spy plane's tires resting on coral after crashing into Hawaii bay

Video shows Navy plane resting on coral reef
New video shows crashed Navy spy plane resting on coral reef in Hawaii 00:23

More than a week after a U.S. Navy surveillance plane overshot a runway in Hawaii and landed instead in an environmentally sensitive bay, new video footage shows tires from the large aircraft are resting on parts of a reef, officials said. The Navy released the footage Wednesday as it works on developing a plan to remove the plane from the water.

There were no injuries to the nine people who were on board when the plane, a P-8A Poseidon, landed Nov. 20 in shallow water just offshore of Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay along the northeastern coast of the island of Oahu. The military base is about 10 miles from Honolulu.

The underwater footage shows the "two points of contact the aircraft has with the coral and the remainder of the aircraft floating above," the Navy said. The video shows tires on the coral as tiny fish swim through rock crevices.

Hawaii Navy Plane
In this image taken from video provided by the U.S. Navy, Navy divers assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One (MDSU-1) conduct an underwater survey of the U.S. Navy's P-8A Poseidon in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. U.S. Navy via AP

A Navy team removed nearly all of the estimated 2,000 gallons of fuel on the plane, Rear Adm. Kevin Lenox said Monday.

"The team extracted all the fuel that they could get out of those tanks. This process was completed successfully without any fuel being released into the bay," he said at a news conference, adding that removing the fuel would reduce risks for the rest of the salvage operation.

Cmdr. Mark Anderson, who is leading the Navy's mobile diving and salvage unit working at the site, said the plane was sitting on a mixture of coral and sand. The left engine is resting on coral. The plane rises a little with the tide, so the full weight of the plane is not on the coral, he said Monday. Anderson noted at the time that while the landing may have damaged the coral somewhat, there did not appear to be "massive chunks missing."

Hawaii Navy Plane
The U.S. Navy said the underwater footage shows two points where the large plane is touching coral in the Hawaii bay. U.S. Navy via AP

Kaneohe Bay is home to coral reefs, an ancient Hawaiian fishpond and a breeding ground for hammerhead sharks.

Sierra Club of Hawaii Executive Director Wayne Tanaka said the video underscores potential damage to the reef.

"It confirms what we've known: We have a jet plane sitting on coral reef," he said. "We don't know how much it moved, how much it could move."

State environmental officials expect to conduct a damage assessment once the plane is removed.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources said it was still waiting for approval from the military to access the land, but officials do not plan to issue fines for environmental damages because the overshot landing was deemed an accident, Hawaii News Now reported. Navy officials have said they hope to fly the P-8A again once it is removed, because the plane is filled with expensive surveillance equipment, according to the station.

Hawaii Navy Plane
A Navy P-8A plane that overshot a runway at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and landed in shallow water offshore sits on a reef and sand in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. Audrey McAvoy / AP

On Monday, Lenox said the Navy was considering two different potential methods to remove the aircraft from Kaneohe Bay. One possible option could be to float the plane and position it within the range of a crane set up on the runway, which would lift it and then set it down on its landing gear once the plane was on land. The gear was still in good condition, he said. Another possible option would involve floating the plane on top of cylinders and rolling it up onto the runway.

The Navy is investigating what caused the P-8A, which is the military version of Boeing's 737 passenger jet, to overshoot a runway. It had been flying in rainy weather when the incident happened.

Peter Forman, an aircraft expert, told Hawaii News Now last week that the shorter runway at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, plus winds and bad weather, could have played a role in why it occurred.

"The pilot probably didn't put the plane down exactly where he wanted to on the runway," Forman told the outlet. "It's probably a combination of all those factors put together."

The Navy has come under intense scrutiny in Hawaii for its environmental stewardship and transparency after jet fuel leaked from a World War II-era fuel storage facility into Pearl Harbor's drinking water in 2021. Some 6,000 Navy personnel, their dependents and civilians complained of physical ailments after the spill. After mounting pressure, the Navy agreed to drain the tanks, an operation that is currently underway.

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