A view of President Barack Obama's long form birth certificate in the Briefing Room of the White House April 27, 2011. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
John Bacon, USA TODAY
The Hawaiian health official who verified the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate died in a small plane crash.
The plane, carrying a pilot and eight passengers, went down Wednesday in the water off the Hawaiian island of Molokai, the Maui Fire Department said. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser was among the first outlets to report that the lone fatality was Loretta Fuddy. Tom Matsuda, the interim executive director of Hawaii's health insurance exchange, confirmed Fuddy's death.
Fuddy, 65, became acting health director in January 2011. After being confirmed as the permanent health director, Fuddy made news in April 2011 when she verified the authenticity of certified copies of President Obama's birth certificate, proving that he had been born in Hawaii.
Obama had requested the release to curb claims by opponents that he was born in Kenya and not eligible to be president.
"I cannot even begin to convey what a terrible loss this is for Hawaii," Matsuda said in a statement. "I worked closely with Director Fuddy on the Affordable Care Act and came to know and respect her as a passionate advocate for public health and a warm, caring human being."
The Makani Kai Air plane went down about a half-mile northwest of Kalaupapa peninsula. Makai Kai Air President Richard Schuman said the plane was a Cessna Grand Caravan.
State Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo said the department's deputy director, Keith Yamamoto, also had been booked on the flight.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie said a Coast Guard helicopter got three passengers out of the water while Maui fire crews picked up five people. One person swam ashore.