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

Sandy Williams’ body among those recovered from Whidbey Island floatplane crash

Sept. 30, 2022 Updated Fri., Sept. 30, 2022 at 9:36 p.m.

By Amanda Zhou and Paige Cornwell Seattle Times Seattle Times

The body of Spokane civil rights activist and journalist Sandy Williams has been recovered nearly a month after she was presumed dead in a floatplane crash near Whidbey Island, family confirmed Friday.

Six of the 10 victims of the crash have now been recovered, and five of those bodies have been identified, Island County Emergency Management said Friday afternoon. Williams’ brother, Rick Williams, confirmed that she was among those whose bodies had been found.

Deputy director Eric Brooks didn’t name the identified victims from the Labor Day weekend crash in Mutiny Bay and said the coroner would be meeting with victims’ families.

Williams’ partner, Patricia Hicks, was also on the plane, but it wasn’t clear Friday whether she is among those whose remains have been recovered.

Williams, founder and publisher of the Black Lens, the Spokane area’s only African American-focused publication, was heralded by community members and Gov. Jay Inslee as a “leader of the Black community.”

Shortly after news of her presumed death broke in early September, State Rep. Marcus Riccelli called Williams “a warrior for all those systematically oppressed,” adding that her death “is a tragic loss for Spokane and our state.”

Hundreds of mourners flocked to the First Interstate Center for the Arts at a public memorial last month on what would have been Williams’ 61st birthday.

“A strong beautiful person (and) leader of the Black community,” Washington Commerce Director Lisa Brown wrote on Twitter. “(Commerce) is honored to have supported projects she envisioned.”

As searchers continue to recover bodies, officials also are making headway finding plane components that could offer clues on what caused the fateful crash. About 80% of the plane, including the engine, has been recovered and pulled to the surface using remotely operated vessels, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said Thursday. Crews began recovery efforts Tuesday, using a Navy barge anchored in place near the crash site off the shore of Freeland on Whidbey Island.

ROVs are plunging more than 150 feet below the surface to retrieve wreckage of the de Havilland DHC-3 Otter, that was bound from Friday Harbor to Renton on Sept. 4 before plummeting into the water.

Meanwhile, officials are investigating whether human remains that washed ashore at Dungeness Spit nearly two weeks after the plane crash are related to the crash.

Officials have examined fingerprints of a torso found by beachgoers, according to Clallam County Deputy Coroner Nathan Millett.

While officials have fingerprints from both the human remains and the identity of a tentative victim, the Washington State Patrol, the agency examining both sets of fingerprints, has not yet made a formal determination, Millett said.

Fingerprints were obtained from an intact hand and another set of fingerprints from the Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

The autopsy was delayed because the human remains had to be transferred out of Clallam County to a forensic pathologist in Thurston County, Millett said.

The Spokesman-Review’s Alayna Shulman contributed to this report.

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