Pilot identified as Southeast Alaska air service suspends all operations after second fatal crash in a week

Ketchikan-based Taquan Air has suspended all operations after Monday’s deadly floatplane crash in Metlakatla, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Taquan Air de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver crashed while landing at the Southeast Alaska community, killing two. The pilot of the plane was 51-year-old Ron Rash of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, according to the Metlakatla Indian Community. The passenger was Sarah Luna, a 31-year-old epidemiologist from Anchorage traveling as part of an Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium diabetes team, the consortium said in a statement.

[‘Our prodigy’: Young epidemiologist killed in Southeast Alaska plane crash was on a trip to see patients]

The Metlakatla crash comes one week after a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter floatplane owned by Taquan returning from a flightseeing trip collided with another floatplane in nearby Ketchikan, killing a pilot and five cruise ship passengers and injuring 10. The company then suspended pre-booked flightseeing tours for cruise passengers.

[NTSB: One floatplane descended more than 500 feet before midair collision that killed 5 cruise passengers and pilot]

Witnesses to the crash into Metlakatla Harbor around 4 p.m. Monday reported the plane flipped upon impact and quickly submerged, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The flight was scheduled from Ketchikan and carried a “fair amount of cargo" en route to Metlakatla, where the pilot was to pick up another load of passengers waiting at the dock, according to NTSB Alaska chief Clint Johnson.


Representatives of Taquan Air declined comment.

Metlakatla is a community of about 1,400 people about 15 miles south of Ketchikan. Taquan makes regular 10-minute flights to Metlakatla from Ketchikan and is the largest commuter airline in the area. The company informed the FAA it would immediately and voluntarily suspend operations, FAA officials said Tuesday.

Luna was traveling to see patients at ANTHC’s Annette Island Service Unit in the coming days, according to a Facebook post from administrators at the health-care facility. Other medical teammates arrived on a different flight.

They and Anchorage-based coworkers “are grieving this sudden loss with us,” unit director Rachael Askren wrote. She also expressed condolences to the Taquan Air staff.

“They have suffered enormous loss in the last week, and we join with everyone in this region expressing sadness for the loss of their staff, and the family and friends left behind,” Askren wrote.

The weather at the time of the crash was “nothing out of the norm for Southeast Alaska,” Johnson said: light winds at 13 knots and high overcast.

An NTSB investigator flew to Metlakatla from Anchorage Tuesday morning. The agency is conducting two investigations into each Taquan crash. Two FAA officials are joining the on-site investigation.

A barge was sent to Annette Island to retrieve the floatplane, according to NTSB. The plane will be brought to a secure hangar in Ketchikan.

It was the first time in more than 20 years that Johnson could remember one flight service experiencing two fatal crashes in such a short time.

“We’ve had operators in a season that have had two accidents, maybe even three," he said. "But this close together, this is a very, very unique situation.”

Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at zhollander@adn.com.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.