Two people died Monday afternoon after their plane crashed in waters near Metlakatla, a week after another deadly crash in nearby Ketchikan involving the same operator.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough confirmed on its Facebook page that “a pilot and a single passenger” had died in the crash of the de Havilland Beaver floatplane operated by Taquan Air. The aircraft reportedly crashed in Metlakatla Harbor at about 4 p.m.

“The circumstances of the crash are not being released at this time,” borough officials wrote. “The names of the deceased will not be released until next of kin have been notified.”

The initial response to the crash was from a seine boat, according to borough officials, with more than a dozen Metlakatla Volunteer Fire Department members also responding. The Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad also responded.

Search and rescue authorities near the site of a flipped plane in waters near Metlakatla on Monday, May 20, 2019. (Courtesy Rosey Nelson)

“Good Samaritans have the aircraft in tow and are bringing the Beaver to the beach until it can be secured,” borough officials wrote.

The incident comes one week after a midair collision near Ketchikan which left six people dead, involving air tour flights operated by Taquan Air and Mountain Air Service.

A Taquan spokesperson referred all media queries Monday evening to the NTSB.

Clint Johnson, the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska chief, said the NTSB received a call reporting the crash from Taquan Air’s director of operations between 4 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. Monday. The Beaver had been making a commuter flight from Ketchikan to Metlakatla at the time.

“Initial reports were that it crashed on landing, there were two people that were on board, and that there was a rescue in process,” Johnson said.

NTSB investigator Noreen Price was immediately sent to Metlakatla Monday evening, according to Johnson.

“There were a number of people that actually witnessed the accident, so our investigator is obviously going to be centering in on interviewing those witnesses when she arrives in on scene, hopefully early tomorrow morning,” Johnson said.

Asked about the proximity of last week’s crash and Monday’s in both time and space, with Ketchikan and Metlakatla just 8 nautical miles apart, Johnson couldn’t immediately recall any similar precedents for two fatal Alaska crashes involving the same air carrier.

“Obviously it’s a unique situation, and coming just on the heels of a major accident investigation,” Johnson said. “However, I have to stress that each one of these accidents will be investigated to the detail that each one needs, but they are two separate accidents and that’s the way that they’ll be investigated: as separate accidents. We may draw parallels as we get into the analysis portion, but at this point keep in mind that we are just gathering information — just the factual information.”

Although Johnson deferred to the Federal Aviation Administration regarding any regulatory restrictions on Taquan’s operations following the Metlakatla crash, he said he hadn’t heard of any being considered in the wake of the Ketchikan crash.

Taquan had suspended scheduled flights on May 14 after the Ketchikan crash, according to its Facebook page, but resumed them along with flightseeing tours and chartered flights on May 17.

Cassie Schirm contributed information to this story.

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