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The Hawaii health official who verified the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate has died in a small plane crash, authorities said Thursday.

The plane, with a pilot and eight passengers aboard, went down Wednesday in the water off the Hawaiian island of Molokai, the Maui Fire Department said. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser was among the first outlets to report that the lone fatality was Loretta Fuddy. Tom Matsuda, the interim executive director of Hawaii's health insurance exchange, later confirmed Fuddy's death.

Fuddy, 65, became acting health director in January 2011. After being confirmed as the permanent health director, Fuddy made news in April 2011 when she verified the authenticity of certified copies of President Barack Obama's birth certificate, proving that he had been born in Hawaii.

Obama had requested the release to curb claims by opponents that he was born in Kenya and not eligible to be president.

"I cannot even begin to convey what a terrible loss this is for Hawaii," Matsuda said in a statement. "I worked closely with Director Fuddy on the Affordable Care Act and came to know and respect her as a passionate advocate for public health and a warm, caring human being."

The Makani Kai Air plane went down about a half mile northwest of Kalaupapa peninsula. Makai Kai Air President Richard Schuman says the plane was a Cessna Grand Caravan.

State Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo said the Health Department's deputy director, Keith Yamamoto, also had been booked on the flight.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie says a Coast Guard helicopter got 3 passengers out of the water while Maui fire crews picked up five people. One person swam ashore.

Contributing: Associated Press

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