Passenger, pilot killed in Metlakatla floatplane crash identified
Metlakatla police have released the names of the two people aboard the de Havilland Beaver floatplane that crashed into the waters near Metlakatla Monday afternoon.
The pilot has been identified as Ron Rash, 51, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The passenger has been identified as Dr. Sarah Luna, 31, of Anchorage.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigator and two Federal Aviation Administration officials will begin an onsite investigation into the crash, an Tuesday afternoon update from the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center said.
Taquan Air Flight 20 crashed while landing in the Metlakatla Harbor at around 4 p.m. on Monday. Witnesses reported the plane flipped upon impact and quickly submerged.
Luna and Rash were the only people on the plane at the time of the crash. They both died, despite resuscitation efforts by two Guardian Flight medics.
The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) is mourning the loss of Luna, a member of Community Health Services.
“She was excited to serve the community members of Metlakatla, traveling there in partnership with our Diabetes team,” ANTHC wrote in a statement Tuesday.
ANTHC says Luna had been with the organization for nearly a year, serving as a senior epidemiologist in the Liver Disease & Hepatitis Program. The group describes her as a person truly committed to the health and well-being of Alaska Native people.
“We thank the Metlakatla Indian Community including all the first responders, community members, and health clinic for their care and compassion of those involved in the incident and for our staff.”
NTSB officials arrived early Tuesday morning to investigate the scene, the agency's Alaska spokesperson Clint Johnson said in a conference that afternoon.
The flight was a normal scheduled run between Ketchikan and Metlakatla with two people on board, as well as luggage and mail. Johnson says investigators are currently collecting pictures and video evidence and gathering witness testimony. From that, a preliminary idea of how the plane landed has emerged.
"They said some time during the touchdown the right float dug in, the airplane cartwheeled a number of times, right wing was severed and the airplane came to rest inverted, upside down," Johnson said. "The cockpit and the passenger area was submerged. The boats in the area responded, tried to get the folks out. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out."
The right wing of the plane sunk and search teams are attempting to locate it. Once found, a barge will take the plane from Metlakatla to Ketchikan to be examined in a private hanger. According to Johnson, the NTSB hopes to have the plane in Ketchikan by early Wednesday morning.
Witnesses told investigators there were light winds and high overcast in the area with 10 miles of visibility, which Johnson noted was good weather conditions for Southeast Alaska.
Taquan Air issued a statement Tuesday evening:
“As you can imagine the past 24 hours have been incredibly overwhelming and we are reeling from not only the incident yesterday, but also from last week. It’s been a really heavy and heartbreaking time for us. Our priority has been our passengers and their families and our internal staff, and pilots. We have voluntarily suspended all of our operations until further notice. We are grateful for your patience and the outpouring of community support and we will update you as soon as we have more information to share.”
A preliminary report for a midair collision of two flightseeing planes near Ketchikan last week is expected to released in the next few days, Johnson said. The preliminary report for Monday’s Metlakatla crash should be available in about five business days.
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