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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Whidbey plane crash investigators identify potential wreckage on seafloor

Sept. 9, 2022 Updated Fri., Sept. 9, 2022 at 9:48 p.m.

A U.S. Coast Guard vessel searches the waters of Mutiny Bay, west of Whidbey Island, in the days after the fatal floatplane crash on Sept. 4.  (Ken Lambert/Seattle Times)
A U.S. Coast Guard vessel searches the waters of Mutiny Bay, west of Whidbey Island, in the days after the fatal floatplane crash on Sept. 4. (Ken Lambert/Seattle Times)
By Sarah Grace Taylor Seattle Times

Officials have located what may be wreckage from a deadly floatplane crash in Mutiny Bay after five days of searching.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Friday that “identified targets” had been located on the seafloor near the crash site. Using sonar provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, investigators combed a 1.75-by-0.75-mile stretch of the Puget Sound on Thursday around where the plane is believed to have crashed.

A NTSB spokesperson said it is coordinating remote-operated vessels to go beneath the surface to capture images of the “targets” identified by sonar to see if it is parts of the missing plane.

The targets are located 100 to 200 feet below the surface in water with about a 3-5 knot current. The depth and motion of the water have hindered search efforts all week.

Since the crash, only small pieces of debris, some personal items and one body, identified as 29-year-old Gabby Hanna, have been recovered. Witnesses on the scene described the floatplane “disappearing” shortly after it hit the water.

Nine people including the pilot and eight other passengers are still unaccounted for but presumed dead. Among them were Spokane civil rights advocate Sandy Williams, travelers, a pregnant woman and a young child.

NTSB Board Member Tom Chapman said Tuesday that locating the wreckage is imperative to the investigation into the crash, including determining the cause.

“We don’t know the cause of the accident at this point. It could be related to a system failure or a mechanical failure or some other factor related to the aircraft, but we don’t know that and without evidence it’ll be a challenge,” Chapman said late Tuesday.

NTSB previously worked with divers and surface crews provided by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife before teaming with NOAA to use sonar on Thursday.

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