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Two rescued after Southeast Alaska floatplane crash

Ben Anderson
A De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane similar to one that crashed near Nilback in Southeast Alaska on March 13, 2012. Department of Interior photo

A floatplane pilot and passenger were rescued on Tuesday afternoon after their plane went down while flying from Niblack, about 30 miles southwest of Ketchikan in Southeast Alaska. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the call came in at about 11:17 Tuesday morning that a plane was being reported overdue and a signal from an Emergency Locator Transmitter was being picked up by another aircraft in the area.

The Coast Guard dispatched a Jayhawk helicopter from Sitka as well as a life boat from Ketchikan and redirected the cutter Naushon to investigate. Less than an hour after the report came in and before the Coast Guard or troopers were able to respond to the scene, the good Samaritan vessel Niblack spotted the two survivors on a beach northeast of Niblack Mine. According to Ketchikan radio station KRBD, crew members aboard the Niblack spotted the plane, a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver operated by Southeast Aviation, in the water near the beach.

The Niblack picked up the two survivors of the crash -- the only occupants of the plane -- and returned them to the Niblack Mine, where they were later picked up by two Temsco helicopters with coordination by the Coast Guard. The Alaska State Troopers identified the two occupants of the plane as 64-year-old Ernest Robb of Ketchikan and 56-year-old Murray Richardson of Vancouer, British Columbia. 

Coast Guard Petty Officer Jeremy Dawkins, who is based in Juneau but helped coordinate the rescue efforts, told KRBD that the two were injured, but mobile and in stable condition. The troopers reported that they were first transported to a Ketchikan hospital before being airlifted to Seattle for further treatment.

"Initial investigation revealed that weather was a factor in the accident due to heavy snow and zero visibility closing in around the plane shortly after take off," troopers reported.

Though the Coast Guard and state troopers both responded to the initial report of the downed aircraft, the rescue operation was carried out by civilians and good Samaritans. Dawkins praised the work done by the unofficial rescue crew.

"Good Samaritans like the crew of the vessel Niblack and Temsco make the dangerous environment of Southeast Alaska safer, and allow us to conduct our work more efficiently," he said.

Read more, at KRBD.