The Hawaii official who verified and released President Barack Obama’s birth certificate has died in a plane crash, authorities said.
Loretta Fuddy, the director of the state Department of Health, was one of nine people aboard the Honolulu-bound Cessna Grand Caravan plane that crashed in Hawaii waters shortly after leaving Kalaupapa Airport Wednesday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
Fuddy, 65, was the only one killed; eight others, including the pilot, survived.
Fuddy made national news in 2011 after she verified the authenticity of Obama’s birth records and released them for the world to see amid pervasive talk from so-called “birthers” who doubted whether Obama was really born in the United States and therefore eligible to be president.
In a letter addressed to Obama in April 2011, Fuddy wrote: “I have reviewed your request for two certified copies of your original Certificate of Live Birth. As the Director of Health for the State of Hawaii, I have the legal authority to approve the process by which copies of such records are made. Through that authority, in recognition of your status as President of the United States, I am making an exception to current departmental policy which is to issue a computer-generated certified copy.
“We hope that issuing you these copies of your original Certificate of Live Birth will end the numerous inquires received by the Hawaii Department of Health to produce this document,” she wrote.
The owner of the airline that operated the plane said Thursday the crash was due to engine failure.
Makani Kai Air owner Richard Schuman said the pilot tried to get the small plane down safely and to keep the passengers together in the ocean off of Molokai, the Associated Press reported.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, Maui officials said.
According to the AP, Fuddy had recently led the department in transitioning its marriage license system to allow gay couples to get married under the state’s new law.
In a statement, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Fuddy 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. Her knowledge was vast; her counsel and advice always given from her heart as much as from her storehouse of experience,” Abercrombie said.