February 16, 2011 in News

Crews recover bodies from Hawaii coastal waters

Missing Spokane woman believed to have perished
By The Spokesman-Review

Officials believe they found the bodies of a pilot and his passenger, believed to be a Spokane woman, who went missing Tuesday in Kalaheo, Hawaii after their ultralight aircraft crashed into ocean.

Kauai Fire Department divers discovered the bodies off Kauai’s south shore about 4:50 p.m. today, Hawaiian standard time. Although the bodies have not been identified, officials believe they are Kim Buergel, 49, of Spokane, and pilot Jim Gaither, 55, of Hanapepe. The two were reported missing about 11:40 a.m. Tuesday after kayakers witnessed their aircraft crash into the ocean.

Sonar technology used in the search picked up images that prompted rescue divers to investigate the area. Two bodies – one male and one female – were recovered from the water in an area known as Big Flats. The aircraft’s motor was also located near the bodies.

“Our condolences go out to the families of the victims who have waited patiently for results of the search,” Fire Chief Bob Westerman said in a news release. “Obviously, this is a terrible loss for them. Hopefully, the recovery of the remains can provide some closure.”

Buergel’s family declined to comment. Roger Barno, chief operating officer at Monaco Enterprises, where Buergel worked in the manufacturing department, said “she was a very pleasant person to be around.”

“It’s a great loss to our company and to all her family and friends.”

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email