Loretta Fuddy, the director of Hawaii’s Department of Health, died in a plane crash off Molokai Wednesday.

She was one of nine people aboard a Makani Kai Air flight scheduled to take off at 3:15 p.m. and fly to Honolulu. The flight crashed about a half-mile off the coast of Molokai. All others on board the flight were rescued, including Keith Yamamoto, the health department’s deputy director, and the pilot.

Molokai firefighters and the Coast Guard responded to the scene where they found eight people in the water wearing life vests, according to the Maui County Fire Department. Three people were transported to Molokai General Hospital and three people to Oahu, while two people declined treatment, remaining in Kalaupapa.

Fuddy’s death had not been officially announced late Wednesday but word spread throughout the afternoon and evening that she was the one who died in the accident. By early evening, local news outlets were leading with the story.

Fuddy, 65, grew up in Kaimuki on Oahu and graduated from Sacred Hearts Academy. She attended the University of Hawaii and Johns Hopkins University where she received degrees in sociology, social work and public health.

Fuddy had a long and distinguished career in the field of public health before being appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to lead the state health department in 2011. She served as chair of the Hawaii Public Health Association, president of the Association of State & Territorial Public Health Association and treasurer and secretary of the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs.

During her career, Fuddy was recognized for her dedication to public service, advocacy on behalf of children and efforts to expand health care services for the poor.

“I’m a child of the ’60s, the Kennedy era of ‘ask what you can do for your country’ public service and Catholic values,” she was quoted as saying in an August Midweek article.

Last year, she received the Jonathan Won Child Maltreatment Prevention Award for her lifelong service in the field of child abuse. The award was presented by the Institute on Violence, Abuse and Trauma at Alliant International University. She was also the recipient of the Hawaii Outstanding Advocate for Children and Youth and the state health department’s Sustained Superior and Exemplary Performance Award.

Information about the cause of the crash and condition of other passengers transported to the hospital was not immediately available.

Makani Kai Air only serves Molokai, offering five daily round trip flights to Honolulu. The plane that crashed was a Cessna Grand Caravan.

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