Coast Guard ends search for 9 missing in seaplane crash

RENTON, Washington (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for nine people, including a child, Monday afternoon after a seaplane crashed into waters off Puget Sound northwest of Seattle.

The body of a 10th person was recovered Sunday by a Good Samaritan after the crash was reported at 3:11 p.m., Coast Guard spokesman William Colclough said Monday.

Later Monday, the Coast Guard said it was suspending the search after it “saturated an area” of more than 2,100 square nautical miles (nearly 2,800 square miles or 7,250 square kilometers).

“All relatives have been informed of this decision,” the Coast Guard said on Twitter. “Our hearts go out to the families, loved ones and friends of those who remain missing and the deceased.”

The Northwest Seaplanes flight left Friday Harbor, a popular tourist destination in the San Juan Islands, and was bound for Renton Municipal Airport, the company’s base, Colclough said.

The plane crashed into Mutiny Bay off Whidbey Island, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Seattle and about halfway between Friday Harbor and Renton, a suburb south of Seattle.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Monday it was sending a team of seven to investigate the crash of the DHC-3 Turbine Otter.

The cause of the crash is unknown, authorities said.

Jon Gabelein of South Whidbey Fire/EMS said: KOMO witnesses on the coast reported seeing the plane “dive nose into the water”.

Four Coast Guard ships, a rescue helicopter and a plane were involved in the extensive search, along with nearby rescue and law enforcement agencies.

The Coast Guard said early Monday that crews searched all night, “but no additional individuals were found and no debris was seen. Coast Guard planes begin a search this morning.”

Northwest Seaplanes is a family business founded by Clyde Carlson, according to the company’s website. It has 24 years of “accident and incident-free flying,” according to the website.

The company’s corporate office next to the seaplane dock at the Renton Municipal Airport remained closed behind gates Monday. The only visible activity was two people hugging at the front door. The only seaplane at the wharf turned out to be a small private Cessna.

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A woman who answered the phone early Monday said she is waiting to learn more and is devastated by the crash.

“It’s a small crew. Everyone’s close,” the woman said, wishing to mention only her first name, Michelle. She didn’t want to say more.

The Northwest Seaplanes website says its sister company Friday Harbor Seaplanes operates daily flights to and from their Renton base and the San Juan Islands, a scenic archipelago northwest of Seattle that attracts tourists from around the world.

Gliders, which have pontoons that allow them to land on the water, are a common sight around Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. There are multiple daily flights between the Seattle area and the San Juan Islands.

Also flying between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, these planes frequently travel over Seattle, landing on Lake Washington and on Lake Union, not far from the city’s iconic Space Needle.

The airport to which the flight departed on Sunday is located at the southern tip of Lake Washington, less than 5 miles from Seattle. Located next to a Boeing factory, it is best known for being the site of the first launch of new 737s.

In July 2020, a De Havilland Beaver from Brooke’s Seaplanes made a scenic flight in Coeur d’Alene, Idahowith five passengers and a pilot when it collided with a Cessna 206. Eight people were killed.

In 2019, a plane crash killed six people in Alaska between two round trips. The Ketchikan-based seaplanes were carrying passengers from the same cruise ship, the Royal Princess, and returning from tours of Misty Fjords National Monument.

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