Coast Guard ends search for 9 missing in seaplane crash

WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search Monday afternoon for nine people, including a child, who were missing after a seaplane crashed into Puget Sound waters northeast of west of Seattle.

The body of a 10th person, an unidentified woman, was recovered by a Good Samaritan on Sunday after the crash was reported at 3:11 p.m., said Scott Giard, director of search and rescue for the Coast Guard Americans for the Pacific Northwest. new conference.

Just after noon on Monday, the Coast Guard announced it was suspending the search for survivors after it “saturated an area” of more than 2,100 square nautical miles (nearly 2,800 square miles or 7,250 square kilometers).

“All next of kin have been notified of this decision,” the Coast Guard said on Twitter. “Our hearts go out to the families, loved ones and friends of the missing and deceased.”

The Northwest Seaplanes flight departed Friday Harbor, a popular tourist destination in the San Juan Islands, and was heading for Renton Municipal Airport, the company’s base, Coast Guard spokesman William Colclough said.

The plane crashed in Mutiny Bay off Whidbey Island, about 50 kilometers northwest of downtown Seattle and halfway between Friday Harbor and Renton, a suburb south of Seattle.

The Coast Guard learned through the owner of the seaplane company that two seaplanes from Friday Harbor took off Sunday afternoon and that the owner was on one of the flights, Giard said. The owner told authorities he saw the other plane deviate slightly from its course and tried to establish radio contact but was unable to.

“Soon after, he noticed on his flight tracker that the flight had stopped tracking and notified authorities,” Giard said.

Officials received reports that “the plane suddenly fell at good speed and hit the water,” Giard said. “We don’t have any video or photos of the incident at this time.”

There was no distress call or beacon from the plane that crashed, he said. The plane has an electronic locator transmitter on board, but they received no transmissions, he said.

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“It’s very typical in times when there’s either a hard landing or a plane crash,” he said.

Jon Gabelein of South Whidbey Fire/EMS Told KOMO witnesses on the shore reported seeing the plane “nose into the water”.

Whidbey Island resident Jeff Brewny and his wife were walking their dog on Sunday when they heard a loud boom.

“The first thought was thunder. It was so loud,” he said. “There was no flash like you have with lightning. So, you know, I thought it was a boat that had exploded. It was so devastating. My dog ​​has gone mad.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Monday that it is sending a seven-person team to investigate the DHC-3 Turbine Otter crash.

The cause of the crash is unknown, authorities said.

Coast Guard searchers found “minimal debris,” Giard said. By Monday afternoon, they had found only three to four long, narrow pieces of aluminum, very few personal items, a seat and a few small pieces of foam, he said.

Without a clear picture of the actual crash, and without knowing whether it exploded on impact or immediately sank to the seabed 150 to 200 feet (45 to 60 meters) below, it is difficult to know what happened to the plane, he said.

Four Coast Guard vessels, a rescue helicopter and a plane had been involved in the extensive search, along with nearby rescue and law enforcement agencies.

According to the company’s website, Northwest Seaplanes is a family business founded by Clyde Carlson. It has 24 years of “accident-free and incident-free flight,” the website said.

The company’s business office next to the seaplane dock at Renton Municipal Airport remained closed behind a fence Monday. The only visible activity was two people hugging near the front door. The only seaplane at the dock appeared to be a small private Cessna.

A woman who answered the phone early Monday said she was waiting to hear more and was devastated by the accident.

“It’s a small crew. Everyone is close,” said the woman, who would only give her first name, Michelle. She declined to say more.

The company posted a message on Facebook on Monday evening saying it was heartbroken.

“We don’t yet know any details regarding the cause of the crash,” the post said. “We work with the FAA, NTSB and Coast Guard. We have been in contact with the families. We pray for the families involved, including our pilot and his family. »

The Northwest Seaplanes website says its sister company Friday Harbor Seaplanes offers daily flights to and from their base in Renton and the San Juan Islands, a scenic archipelago northwest of Seattle that draws tourists from around the world.

Seaplanes, which have pontoons allowing them to land on water, are commonplace around Puget Sound, an inlet to the Pacific Ocean. There are several daily flights between the Seattle area and the San Juan Islands.

These planes, which also fly between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, frequently fly over Seattle and land on Lake Washington and Lake Union, not far from the city’s iconic Space Needle.

The airport where Sunday’s flight was headed is at the southern tip of Lake Washington, less than 5 miles from Seattle. It is located next to a Boeing factory and is best known for where the new 737s first hit the skies.

In July 2020, a De Havilland Beaver operated by Brooke’s Seaplanes was on a scenic stage robbery in Coeur d’Alene, Idahowith five passengers and a pilot when it collided with a Cessna 206. Eight people were killed.

In 2019, a flight accident in Alaska between two tourist planes killed six people. Seaplanes based in Ketchikan carried passengers from the same cruise ship, the Royal Princess, and returned from visits to Misty Fjords National Monument.


Bellisle reported from Renton, Wash.

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