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Up Front Lahaina

January 13, 2011
Lahaina News
... HAUOLI MAKAHIKI HOU to all — may 2011 be a way better year! We’ll call it the turnaround year — for the better...

... and it’s also the time of year when we have our own awards for Man and Woman of the Year in West Maui. This year, we chose two people who keep a low profile, but who are always up there front and center when volunteer help is needed...

... our Man of the Year is Lahaina-born Octogenarian SAMMY KADOTANI. Sammy has often been referred to as the “Mayor of Lahaina” — he is always there to help with every worthwhile project, from fund-raisers to restoring the Pioneer Mill Smokestack to organizing the menehunes to repair two bad potholes in the town in the middle of the night. He is one of those “go to” people who never says “no”...

... and our Woman of the Year is one you will recognize at every community event, working... she is VIVIAN ICHIKI. Another lady who always says “yes” with a smile. She bustles around and gets it done...

... Mahalo nui loa Sammy and Vivian!...

... and around the world, the New Year was rung in with millions of people enjoying the fireworks, with no disasters of note, except perhaps the terrible flooding in Southeast Queensland, which brings me to a story...

... in the early 1970s, there was another such flood stretching hundreds of miles. I was in Australia visiting what is now an exclusive resort at Dunk Island owned then by the late ERIC MCILLREE. Eric was a legend in his own time. The owner of Avis Australia, he was one of those 1930s pilots who flew by the seat of their pants...

... my best friend and I were staying at Dunk as a guest of Eric and his wife, Janice, and it was arranged that we would fly back to Sydney with them in his twin-engine plane and stay a few days. We took off from Dunk for Townsville with Eric as pilot, lighting a cigar as he dropped into the pilot’s seat. The copilot was a young man he had just hired to fly guests to the island from Townsville and was going back to his home in Melbourne to pick up his belongings. We took off heading for Rockhampton where we would refuel. Eric and the young man up front; my best friend and Janice behind and me in the back...

... After an hour, we realized we were flying over water — which stretched in every direction as far as the eye could see — and it became obvious Eric had lost his bearings. We had no idea where we were, except we were flying south over flooded countryside. We made radio contact with Rockhampton Airport — they were not much help except to ask, “How many bodies are on board?” And then Eric announced, “Folks, we’re in trouble — we’re very low on fuel and we have no sight of the airport or any land. I’m afraid we’re going to have to ditch in the water, and here’s what you must do. You in the back,” he said to me, “We’ll get you out first.” This was fine, except I don’t swim...

... we only had ten minutes of fuel left and no sign of any land. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle — suddenly the heavy cloud cover below us parted, and there was the runway at 2:30. We came down on an absolutely dry tank. As we came to a stop, I looked up and the clouds came together again. After we landed and were trying to gather ourselves together again, I turned to Eric and Janee and said, “Now guys, I have a house gift I was going to give you in Sydney, but at the rate we’re going, I think I’ll give it to you now!” With that, the young pilot turned to Eric and said, “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll continue on home on Qantas.” He did, and they never heard from him again — CHICKEN!!...

... so that’s my New Year’s Flood story — Happy New Year to all!!...

Up Front Lahaina is a twice monthly feature. To protect his innocence, the writer chooses to remain anonymous. The views expressed in this column belong to the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Lahaina News staff and owners.
 
 

 

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