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Hawaii official died from irregular heartbeat after plane crash

By Malia Mattoch

HONOLULU (Reuters) - A Hawaii state health official who gained national attention when she released a copy of President Barack Obama's birth certificate in 2011, died from a stress-induced irregular heartbeat following a plane crash last month, police said.

Loretta Fuddy, 65, director of the Hawaii Department of Health, died on December 11 after a single-engine plane with nine people on board crashed some 300 yards off Molokai's Kalaupapa peninsula during an inter-island flight.

The pilot and seven other passengers survived the crash with various injuries and one of the injured swam to shore, a U.S. Coast Guard official said.

"It has been determined that Fuddy's cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia as a result of stress and the manner of death was accidental," the Maui Police Department said.

Heart rhythm problems occur when the electrical impulses in the heart that coordinate heartbeats do not work properly, causing the heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly, according to Mayo Clinic's website.

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie appointed Fuddy as health director in 2011. She previously held other leadership positions in the state, including chief of the Family Health Services Division.

Amid accusations by so-called "birthers," who said Obama was not born in the United States, Fuddy released to him copies of his original certificate of live birth in Hawaii.

She said that "in recognition of your status as president of the United States," she was making an exception to her department's policy of only releasing a computer-generated certified copy.

Obama then released a copy of that longer version of his birth certificate in response to the widely discredited claims he was not born in the United States. In doing so, he blasted "carnival barkers" who refused to let the issue go.

A spokesman for the Hawaii Department of Health said Fuddy's deputy, Keith Yamamoto, was among the passengers who survived the crash of the Cessna 208 Caravan.

The flight was being operated by Makani Kai Air, which flies between Oahu and Molokai.

(Reporting by Malia Mattoch in Honolulu; Writing by Eric M. Johnson, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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