A Maryland man is dead and one of his children is in critical condition after a Friday morning floatplane crash near the mouth of Tutka Bay, across Kachemak Bay from Homer.
The de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver was carrying a pilot and six passengers — two men, one woman and three children — when it crashed “under unknown circumstances” as it was taking off from Tutka Bay Lodge, authorities said.
The plane never actually left the water, said Petty Officer Amanda Norcross of the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District. Norcross said the crash was reported around 10:19 a.m. Friday.
The plane was operated by Rust’s Flying Service, said Ken Marsh, a spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers. The Anchorage-based company, which contracts with the remote lodge for transportation and flightseeing tours, said it has suspended operations and is cooperating with authorities involved in the investigation.
Five of the passengers were members of the same immediate family and the sixth was an adult male relative, said Derotha Ferraro, a spokeswoman for South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, where the plane’s occupants were initially treated.
The family was from Maryland; they were guests of the lodge and their plane was destined for Anchorage at the time, Marsh said.
Joseph Patanella, the 57-year-old father of the three children, was killed in the crash, Marsh said.
Two of his children, along with their mother, were flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, according to Ferraro. One of the children was in critical condition, troopers said.
The pilot, Engjell Berisha, wasn’t injured, Marsh said. He was treated and released from the hospital.
The remaining child was also treated and released, and the male relative of the family was in stable condition at South Peninsula Hospital, Ferraro said.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.
“We are devastated by the news of the loss of life suffered in this incident. Our hearts go out to our guests and their family,” Rust’s Flying Service and Tutka Bay Lodge said in a joint statement. “Our focus is on assisting our guests, their family and loved ones, the pilot, our staffs and first responders during this active crisis response.”
Rust’s is a family business founded in 1963 that is the oldest and largest seaplane operator on Lake Hood, according to the company website. The family also owns K2 Aviation in Talkeetna.
The Rusts operate 22 aircraft between the two companies.
The crash of a K2 flightseeing plane near Denali last August killed all five people aboard the de Havilland Beaver. An NTSB report on the probable cause of that crash has yet to be released.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Correction: Troopers previously misspelled Joseph Patanella’s last name.