The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office confirmed two people died in a plane collision over Lake Coeur d’Alene on Sunday afternoon, and as many as eight people may have been onboard the two aircraft.
The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed Sunday evening it was investigating the crash and identified the aircraft involved as a Cessna TU206G and a de Havilland DHC-2, both single-engine planes.
Witnesses reported seeing two planes colliding above the water, then crashing into the lake near Powderhorn Bay, according to a release from the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. The crash occurred around 2:20 p.m.
Multiple local agencies, including the sheriff’s marine teams, local fire departments and the United States Coast Guard, responded to the crash shortly after it occurred.
Lt. Ryan Higgins with the sheriff’s office confirmed two bodies had been recovered from the planes. The victims have not been identified.
Unconfirmed reports suggest there were eight passengers and crew onboard the two planes, according to a later release from the sheriff’s office. No survivors were found.
Higgins said the two planes had been located by sonar at a depth of 127 feet below the lake’s surface. The Kootenai County dive team is not equipped to go that deep, Higgins said, so a commercial diving operation would likely need to be contracted to explore the wreckage for any further evidence or victims.
Higgins could not confirm the types of planes involved or where they had come from, citing the ongoing investigation. He confirmed the planes were not linked to a group of historic planes that have flown over the region in recent days to celebrate the Fourth of July.
The National Transportation Safety Board, a federal body that investigates civil transportation accidents, will likely take over the investigation in the coming days, Higgins said.
John Cowles was on the lake with his family at the time of the crash. Cowles said he looked up from his boat to see what appeared to be an “engine explosion” on a seaplane flying no more than 200 feet overhead. One of the plane’s wings then separated, and the plane fell into the water.
Another witness, Patrick Pearce, was just pulling out from a dock on his Jet Ski when he saw two single-engine planes coming towards each other, 800 to 900 feet above the water. Pearce, a pilot himself, said he recognized by the engine sounds that both planes were traveling at a fairly high rate of speed.
The planes struck each other hard before crashing into the lake, not with an explosion but a metallic, cracking sound, similar to two boats crashing against each other, Pearce said. He guessed that a wing of one plane had clipped the other’s cabin.
Pearce rushed to the scene of the crash. The only thing floating above water was one pontoon from one of the seaplanes, he said.
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