HONOLULU (KKTV) - Colorado Springs newlyweds were among the 11 who perished when a skydiving plane crashed and burst into flames on Hawaii's North Shore.
The family of Bryan and Ashley Weikel tell 11 News the couple was in Hawaii to celebrate their first wedding anniversary. Their next big adventure as a married couple was to skydive for the first time.
Their plane went down just minutes after takeoff Friday night.
"I saw it hit. I was right there, man. I was right there. I heard the boom," Oahu Parachute Center employee Carlos Zepata told CBS News.
Zepata drove the customers to the flight and is one of the last people to speak with the victims before the crash. He told CBS he saw a huge fireball after the plane went down.
Another witness told reporters he saw the plane get 75-100 feet off the ground, then nosedive and flip belly forward twice before plummeting to the ground nose-first.
"The fire department got the call about 6:30 this evening and we responded, 14 fire trucks, got there really quickly," Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves told sister station Hawaii News Now (HNN).
The wreck was engulfed in flames when firefighters reached the scene. As the plane crashed within the confines of the airfield, crews were able to reach it quickly, Neves said. No one was left alive.
The fire chief confirmed several relatives were at the airfield to watch the skydivers and likely saw the plane go down.
"There was some family members that were left behind ... [the victims] left the family members behind and took off, so there were some survivors who did not go on the plane."
Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called the crash the nation's deadliest involving a civil aircraft in nearly a decade.
"On behalf of the NTSB, I’d like to extend our deepest sympathies to those who lost loved ones in this terrible tragedy. Our hearts go out to each and every one of you,” she said.
Among the factors that could have contributed to the crash, the NTSB is looking at whether the plane was overweight. It was reportedly near capacity when it went down; the plane is outfitted to carry 13 people and had 11 on board. Weights and balance checks need to be conducted before each flight.
Relatives of the Weikels told 11 News the young couple moved to Colorado Springs shortly before their wedding last year. Bryan Weikel, 27, had surprised Ashley Weikel, 26, with the trip.
Kenneth Reed was waiting to hear from his brother how skydiving went. When hours passed with no text or phone call, a bad feeling crept over him. His worst fears were confirmed when he started googling skydiving in Hawaii.
"The first thing that popped up was the headline that a plane had crashed. I just knew right then."
Besides the Weikels, police say one other woman and eight men were on board. None have been formally identified, but friends and family have begun speaking out.
Among the victims identified by loved ones is 29-year-old Casey Williamson, who once lived in Vail.