The National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska regional chief gave an overview Tuesday of the agency’s investigation into Monday’s fatal floatplane crash near Metlakatla.
Clint Johnson spoke with reporters outside the NTSB offices in Anchorage. He said the crash took place a couple of minutes before 4 p.m. Monday.
The deHavilland Beaver, operated by Taquan Air, was on a scheduled run between Ketchikan and Metlakatla, carrying mail and cargo. The only two people on board were the pilot and one passenger. Both 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.
Johnson said the NTSB investigator arrived in Ketchikan early Tuesday, met with Taquan officials and then went to Metlakatla to interview witnesses and start collecting evidence.
He said some witnesses saw the accident as it happened.
“What the witnesses are saying at this point right now is that they watched the airplane landing to the west. There was about a 10-knot wind from the southeast, light chop on the water,” he said. “They said sometime during the touchdown the right float dug in, the airplane cartwheeled a number of times, the right wing was severed and the airplane came to rest inverted – upside down.”
Johnson said the weather was good for Southeast Alaska on Monday, with high overcast skies and about 10-miles visibility.
He said the investigator will be in Ketchikan through the end of the week, looking at the airplane’s equipment. NTSB also will continue to talk with Taquan officials and witnesses. A search was under way Tuesday for the severed wing, which sank during the crash.
Monday’s crash was one week after a fatal mid-air collision on May 13 involving a Taquan Otter and a Beaver operated by Mountain Air Service. Six people died in that accident in Ketchikan’s George Inlet area, and 10 survived.
Johnson said the NTSB team investigating the May 13 crash had left Ketchikan Monday morning, just hours before the second accident.
Thanks to APRN’s Wesley Early for recording and sharing the Anchorage media briefing.