Wreckage of a floatplane that crashed into Mutiny Bay last week has been located on the seafloor, after the depth and motion of the water hid the wreckage for several days, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
A “large section” similar in length and width to the plane was located Saturday by sonar about 190 feet below the surface of Puget Sound just off Whidbey Island, according to spokesperson Jennifer Gabris.
Initially, only small pieces of debris, some personal items and one body, identified as that of 29-year-old Gabby Hanna, were recovered from the Sept. 4 crash that killed 10 people after witnesses say the plane “disappeared” into the water.
Nine people – the pilot and eight other passengers – are still unaccounted for. Among those on board were Spokane civil rights activist Sandy Williams and her partner, Patricia Hicks, a retired teacher.
Investigators worked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory to comb a 1.75-by-0.75-mile area where the plane was believed to have crashed, according to witness reports.
NTSB Investigator Doug Brazy said Friday that NOAA sonar had identified “dozens” of potential pieces of debris that could not be confirmed as plane wreckage. Over the weekend, a UW vessel using multiple types of sonar was able to identify a significant portion of the plane.
Given the depth and 3- to 5-knot currents, the NTSB is seeking a work-class remotely operated vehicle to recover the wreckage.
NTSB board member Tom Chapman said Sept. 6 the investigation into what caused the accident largely hinged on the recovery of wreckage and could take up to 24 months under normal conditions, adding that the crash was “an unusual situation under any circumstances.”
The plane was a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter, a regular in the Seattle area’s floatplane ecosystem, bound from Friday Harbor to Renton, before plummeting into the water over Labor Day weekend, causing a large splash and a loud boom, reported by over two dozen boaters and beachgoers. The plane was flying at less than 1,000 feet, according to NTSB, and had spent just 18 minutes in the air, according to FAA tracking data.
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