Coast Guard suspends search for 9 missing in floatplane crash in Washington’s Puget Sound

Langley, Wash. — The Coast Guard on Monday suspended the search for the nine people missing after a floatplane crashed one day earlier in the Puget Sound north of Seattle. 

The plane had 10 people, including a child, on board at the time of the crash. Good Samaritans and first responders arrived on the scene Sunday and recovered one deceased individual, the Coast Guard said.  

“It is always difficult when it comes time to make a decision to stop searching,” said Capt. Daniel Broadhurst, Incident Management Branch Chief for the 13th Coast Guard District, in a statement. “The hearts of all the first responders go out to those who lost a family member, a loved one or a friend in the crash.”  

The National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the cause of the crash. A remotely operated Coast Guard vehicle will continue to assist the NTSB in searching underwater for the wreckage and debris.   

Crews on board patrol boats had remained at the scene overnight, the Coast Guard said in a previous update. Aircraft searches were temporarily paused because of FAA restrictions but resumed along with boat crews on Monday morning.

In total, the Coast Guard said it had conducted 26 search sorties, searching 1,283 nautical miles of track line covering an area of approximately 2,100 square nautical miles.  

The agency said in a press release the plane was flying from Friday Harbor, a popular tourist destination in the San Juan Islands, to Renton, a southern suburb of Seattle.

Four Coast Guard vessels, a rescue helicopter and an aircraft were involved in the extensive search, along with nearby rescue and law enforcement agencies. Two vessels were to continue searching during the night and air patrols would resume at first light, the Coast Guard said late Sunday.

The crash was reported at 3:11 p.m.

The plane went down in Mutiny Bay off Whidbey Island, roughly 30 miles northwest of downtown Seattle and about halfway between Friday Harbor and Renton.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the plane was a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter, a single-engine propeller plane.

Floatplanes, which have pontoons allowing them to land on 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, a scenic archipelago northwest of Seattle that draws tourists from around the world.

These aircraft, which also fly between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, frequently travel over Seattle and land in Lake Washington, not far from the city’s iconic Space Needle.

Renton, where authorities say the flight was headed Sunday, is at the southern tip of Lake Washington, about 10 miles southeast of Seattle.

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

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