The investigation into Monday’s fatal floatplane crash near Metlakatla on Annette Island has begun, and both victims have been identified.
Here’s Ketchikan Gateway Borough Public Information Officer Deanna Thomas on Tuesday afternoon:
“A National Transportation Safety Board investigator and two Federal Aviation Administration officials have arrived on scene and they’re beginning their investigation today,” she said.
Taquan Air Flight 20 crashed while landing in the waters of Metlakatla Harbor at about 4 p.m. Monday.
The NTSB said witness statements indicate the DeHavilland Beaver flipped on impact and quickly submerged.
“The pilot and the single passenger are deceased,” she said. “There were no other individuals on board the aircraft. There was a sizeable amount of freight on board the aircraft.”
Metlakatla Police Department identified the two who died in the crash. The passenger was 31-year-old Sarah Luna of Anchorage, an epidemiologist with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. The pilot was 51-year-old Ron Rash of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Next of kin have been notified.
According to a public Facebook post by the ANTHC, Luna was traveling to Metlakatla to see patients.
The two victims were recovered by Metlakatla responders and others, and taken to Annette Island Service Unit.
Thomas said that in addition to Metlakatla responders, Taquan Air brought two Guardian Flight medics who assisted with resuscitation efforts. Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad, U.S. Coast Guard crews and good Samaritans also responded to the crash. The seine boat Lady Liv was the first on scene.
Thomas said good Samaritans towed the downed airplane to the beach.
“A barge was sent to Annette Island to retrieve the floatplane, according to NTSB’s Clint Johnson,” she said “The plane is being brought to a secure hangar in Ketchikan.”
In a statement released Tuesday, Metlakatla Mayor Karl Cook offered condolences and gratitude for those who responded to Monday’s crash.
Taquan also submitted a statement Tuesday. In it, they say that company staff are reeling from Monday’s accident, especially on the heels of a deadly mid-air collision last week.
That May 13th accident involved a Taquan Air Otter and a Mountain Air Service Beaver, both providing flightseeing tours. In that crash, six people died and 10 survived.
Taquan said in Tuesday’s statement that it was suspending all flights until further notice.