The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report Friday on the May 20 Taquan Air floatplane crash that killed both people onboard near Metlakatla. It says the pilot had five hours of experience flying floatplanes when he joined Taquan in April 2019.

Ron Rash, 51, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was piloting a de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver floatplane, taking mail, freight and packages from Ketchikan to Metlakatla, a community about 16 miles away. Also onboard was passenger Sarah Luna, Ph.D., of Anchorage, a senior epidemiologist at the Alaska Native Health Consortium.

According to Taquan Air management, Rash was newly hired for the 2019 season. He started orientation on April 22, 2019, with a total of 1,606 flight hours. On May 3, he completed two check rides in a Beaver aircraft, and on May 11 he completed initial operation experience requirements.

There were three eyewitnesses who all told the NTSB that the plane made a normal westerly landing approach.

Two people said the wings rocked to the left, then right before the plane touched the water. One of them reported seeing the right wing hit the water and the plane nose over quickly before the cockpit and cabin partially sank.

The third witness was in a boat north of the crash and reported seeing the right float “dig into the water” before the plane nosed over, the report reads.

Good Samaritans, police and volunteer emergency medical technicians all responded to the scene. Rash and Luna were taken to the hospital where they were declared dead.

The plane's right wing and right lift strut both separated from the fuselage in a rearward direction and then sank, along with the passenger’s seat. The wing, strut and seat are all still missing, but the rest of the aircraft is intact and accounted for, the report states.

Taquan voluntarily suspended all their operations the day after the crash. Cargo operations resumed last week and passenger flights resumed Friday, according to the carrier.

The Federal Aviation Administration says there will be an increased inspector presence and surveillance of Taquan going forward.

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