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7 swim ashore after floatplane crashes on takeoff near Ketchikan

  • Author: Chris Klint
  • Updated: June 19, 2017
  • Published June 19, 2017

A floatplane carrying tourists crashed on takeoff Sunday from a lake in Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan, but the seven people on board escaped serious injury.

Alaska State Troopers said the crash of the de Havilland Beaver on Big Goat Lake, about 46 miles northeast of Ketchikan, was reported just before 2:30 p.m.

Clint Johnson, the National Transportation Safety Board's Alaska chief, said the Beaver was on a route for Alaska Seaplane Tours, carrying cruise-ship passengers on a shore excursion during a stop in Ketchikan.

"One of the passengers said the left wing struck the water," Johnson said. "The floats were torn off of the airplane, so they were floating separately and the rest of the plane sank."

Ketchikan resident Matthew B. Perron, 30, was the pilot, according to troopers. Two of his six passengers, Tim Friedrich, 40, and Catrin Fredrich, 36, were from Germany, and the other four – Robert S. Grover, 63, Debra A. Grover, 60, Nicole D. Grover, 30, and Jonathan M. James, 36 – were from California.

"The pilot and passengers were able to exit the aircraft and swim ashore," troopers wrote. "They were treated by (emergency medical services) when they arrived in Ketchikan and were later transported to the hospital and treated for minor injuries."

Chris John, an incident commander with the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad, said Big Goat Lake is a common stop for Ketchikan air tour companies. The squad was alerted by troopers and launched a fixed-wing plane and a helicopter at about 3 p.m., but the survivors were already on their way to Ketchikan.

"By the time we got out to the lake we found out that three air taxis had brought in the seven survivors," John said. "It was phenomenal that they got through that crash in as decent shape as they were."

Alaska Seaplane Tours lost another floatplane in May 2015, when one of its floats was holed during a landing in Tongass Narrows near Ketchikan. All five people on board got out of the plane before it capsized and sank.

A call to Alaska Seaplane Tours requesting detail on Sunday's crash wasn't immediately returned Monday. The name of the cruise line associated with the flight wasn't immediately available.

NTSB investigators were hoping to speak to pilot Perron about the incident Monday, the NTSB's Johnson said. The Beaver reportedly sank in "very deep water," however, and the NTSB was working with Alaska Seaplane Tours to determine whether it could be recovered.