WWII plane wreckage off windward Oahu identified

KANEOHE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A World War II mystery is solved. Plane wreckage found off the Windward Oahu coast has been identified 69 years after it crashed. Chances are the families involved don't even know about the discovery.

The World War II wreckage was found near the island known as Chinaman's Hat. It's sitting about 90 feet deep.

"It's quite a sight. It's beautiful there. There are lots of fish," said Ron Tubbs, the scuba diver that made the discovery.

Tubbs took pictures and video of the site. At first the engine and propeller were spotted. Then the steering wheel trim tabs and cockpit floor.

"Everything matches and at that point it was pretty confirmed it was a PBM," said Steve Price, Hawaii Undersea Research Lab. "This is the engine and you can see the 18 cylinders."

Hawaii Undersea Research Lab technician Steve Price also went to check out the wreckage. They were able to trace records and parts and concluded the plane is a PBM sea plane.

They were even able to find the plane's crash report. Back on January 23, 1945 with Lt. TJ Connolly in the pilot's seat the plane crashed shortly after takeoff. An engine was leaking fuel.

"He went forward. It got worse. They finally lost power and just dropped out of the sky," said Price.

Eight people were killed. Six survived, including the pilot.

"I'm sure that most of the family members of those who died or served on this aircraft during World War II are unaware of its being found," said Tubbs.

They did contact the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, the organization that searches for unaccounted Americans. That's one of the reasons they think it's important to research the wrecks and there are hundreds around Hawaii. Although funding for the Hawaii Undersea Research Lab is drying up because of budget cuts.

"This is a very important part of Hawaii's history and very important part of what happened in World War II," said Tubbs.

The wreckage will stay in the ocean. It is protected and divers are not supposed to remove anything from the site.

Courtesy of Hawaii News Now

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