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2 dead in floatplane crash near Metlakatla

Two people died after a Taquan Air de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane crashed while landing near Metlakatla. (Photo by Aerial Leask)

Two people are dead after a Taquan Air floatplane crashed near the Southeast Alaska town of Metlakatla, according to a statement from the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

The plane crashed in Metlakatla Harbor at about 4 p.m., and no other people were aboard, authorities said.

Representatives of Taquan Air could not immediately be reached on Monday.

Clint Johnson, head of the National Transportation Safety Board in Alaska, said preliminary information indicates the accident occurred as the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane was landing.

“We’re trying to sort out the details,” he said.

Lt. Brian Dykens, a spokesman with the U.S. Coast Guard, said he did not know the age, sex or names of the people involved. Officials could not immediately say where the plane had departed from.

The accident comes one week after a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter floatplane owned by Taquan Air was returning from a flightseeing trip when it collided with another floatplane in nearby Ketchikan, a crash that killed 6 and injured 10. The company then suspended pre-booked flightseeing tours for cruise ship passengers.

Metlakatla is a community of about 1,400 people located about 15 miles south of Ketchikan.

Aerial Leask, a photographer in Metlakatla, said she went to the harbor after the crash, as people were gathering. The plane was upside down and the seine boat Lady Liv was first on scene.

The boat’s crewmembers searched for survivors after hooking the wreckage up to a winch to pull it higher off the water. The victims were placed on a boat operated by the Metlakatla Volunteer Fire Department, then rushed to an ambulance waiting at the dock, she said.

Last week’s tragedy and now this one have been especially difficult for the region, she said. Flights are essential to the island community, more important than any other form of transportation.

“It’s very hard,” she said. “We see these planes coming and going all day, and it’s hard to believe something you rely on can also be so deadly.”

Johnson, with NTSB, said a team of investigators reviewing the damaged airplanes from last week’s crash had just left Ketchikan earlier in the day on Monday, returning to Anchorage and Lower 48 locations.

“My intention is getting an investigator to Metlakatla,” quickly, Johnson said.

On Monday afternoon, the Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Sitka and response boat from Ketchikan toward the scene, but Dykens said those vehicles soon returned after it was learned that all victims had been recovered from the water. The Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad also dispatched a rescue boat to the scene.

Dykens said he did not know whether the flight was a commuter flight, or conducting flightseeing services.

Two people died after a Taquan Air de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane crashed while landing near Metlakatla. Good Samaritans responded to the damaged plane. (Photo by Aerial Leask)
Two people died after a Taquan Air de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane crashed while landing near Metlakatla. Fishing vessel Lady Liv recovers the downed aircraft. (Photo by Aerial Leask)





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