Sirens went off in the small plane he was a passenger on, and Ferdinand Puentes and eight others aboard "knew what was going on."
The aircraft was going down, and Puentes grabbed his GoPro camera and recorded the ordeal.
The result: arresting pictures of inside the plane and beneath ocean waters as the group awaited rescue off Kalaupapa on Hawaii's Molokai island.
One person, Loretta Fuddy, died in the December 11 crash. Fuddy, director of Hawaii's Department of Health, was the official who confirmed the authenticity of President Barack Obama's birth record in Hawaii.
Of the others on board, one person swam ashore, a Maui Fire Department helicopter picked up four, and a Coast Guard helicopter rescued three.
A month after the crash, the photographs continue to evoke strong emotions in Puentes.
"It just bit into me like, am I dreaming?" Puentes told CNN affiliate KHON-TV in Honolulu.
One photo looks outside the plane's window right around the time the aircraft hit the water.
Puente's camera captured the plane sinking and even an underwater shot of its body.
Puentes told KHON that he's an avid waterman, but his clothes weighed him down and it took an extra seat cushion to keep him afloat.
Surviving the crash has changed his life, he told the TV station.
"A lot of things seem petty now. Can't take things for granted," he said.