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Navy, NTSB prepare to recover plane wreckage in Mutiny Bay

Sept. 26, 2022 Updated Mon., Sept. 26, 2022 at 9:09 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 Seattle Times

The U.S. Navy will begin recovering wreckage from the Labor Day weekend plane crash in Mutiny Bay on Tuesday morning in an effort to piece together what led to the mysterious crash that killed 10 people.

In the immediate aftermath, only small pieces of debris, some personal items and one body, identified as 29-year-old Gabby Hanna, were recovered from the deadly Sept. 4 crash after witnesses say the plane slipped beneath the surface causing a delayed boom and little other evidence.

The National Transportation Advisory Board identified “substantial” wreckage from the crash using sonar earlier this month, but it had wait for the Navy vessel capable of retrieving the debris to be available before starting recovery efforts.

A Navy barge was anchored in place Monday off the shore of Freeland on Whidbey Island near the crash site in a shipping channel of Mutiny Bay. On Tuesday, crews will operate a work-class remote operated vessel from the barge to begin recovering wreckage located over 150 feet below the surface, where currents often run between 3- to 5-knots.

Navy crews will use a crane on the barge and the ROV to pull any evidence of the crash from the sea floor, where it landed after a “near-vertical” nose dive, according to the NTSB. The NTSB will use the wreckage to continue investigating the cause and circumstances of the sudden crash, which could take up to two years to complete.

A preliminary report by the NTSB recently noted the plane had undergone a 100-hour inspection – a routine examination done every 100 flight hours – just three days before the incident and had completed a trip earlier the same day.

A spokesperson for the NTSB said Monday that there’s no way to accurately guess how long it will take for the wreckage to be recovered, but it will likely be several days and crews will work until they recover “as much as they can find.”

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