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Plane crash kills Hawaii official in Obama's 'birther' fuss

| Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, 9:42 p.m.

KAUAI, Hawaii — A Hawaii state health official who gained national attention when she released a copy of President Obama's birth certificate in 2011 was killed in a small plane crash off the island of Molokai, authorities said on Thursday.

Loretta Fuddy, director of the Hawaii Department of Health, died when a single-engine plane with nine on board went down about 300 yards off Molokai's Kalaupapa peninsula on Wednesday during an inter-island flight.

The pilot and seven passengers survived, Coast Guard search and rescue controller Darin McCracken said. One of the injured swam to shore.

“Our hearts are broken. Loretta was deeply loved and respected. She was selfless, utterly dedicated and committed to her colleagues in the Department of Health and to the people of Hawaii,” said Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who appointed Fuddy in 2011.

The flight was operated by Makani Kai Air, which flies between Oahu and Molokai.

Owner Richard Schuman blamed the crash on engine failure. He said the pilot tried to bring the plane down safely and keep the passengers together after they were in the water.

A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said the agency was investigating the crash.

The Federal Aviation Administration was conducting a probe of the accident.

Amid accusations by so-called “birthers,” who claim that Obama was not born in the United States, Fuddy released to him copies of his original certificate of live birth in Hawaii.

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 in response to the claims that he was not born in the country. In doing so, he blasted “carnival barkers” who refused to let the issue go.

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