Investigators turn to wreckage and passengers for answers

More is being learned about Monday’s fatal plane crash

The dead are identified, the injured are recuperating and the investigation continues into Monday’s fatal floatplane crash near Ketchikan.

Wednesday marked the start of the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into what preliminary information indicates was a mid-air collision of a Taquan Air floatplane and a Mountain Air floatplane at 12:21 p.m. Monday, which killed six and injured 10.

“A lot of work was conducted today,” said National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy, during a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Ketchikan. “We requested a lot of information. We started our interview process. We interviewed the pilot of the Taquan plane, and we’ve interviewed a lot of the passengers.”

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“I have not had the opportunity to speak with any of the investigators or participants in the interviews,” she added.

However, she did have information about both efforts to recover wreckage from the two planes and an investigation that she said will yield a preliminary report in about two weeks.

The two wreckage sites are about a mile apart, Homendy said, and their debris fields were drastically different.

She said the Taquan plane was submerged under 75 feet of water and about 50 feet away from shore. It was recovered and placed on a barge, and it will be placed in a secure hangar.

“The debris field is much larger for the Mountain Air plane,” Homendy said. “It’s estimated at 1,000 feet by 3,000 feet.”

Tuesday, Homendy said the debris fields could be a sign that the plane began to come apart in the air.

“We will focus on still recovering the debris,” she said. “We will begin to put together the structure of both aircraft in the hangar to see how the two airplanes came together.”

The Federal Aviation Administration, Taquan Air, and Transportation Safety Board of Canada and the Australian Transportation Safety Board will be parties to the investigation, which means they will assist with fact finding, Homendy said.

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“There were Canadian and Australian nationals aboard the aircraft and both of the aircraft were manufactured in Canada,” Homendy said.

The investigation will include three working groups — the air worthiness group, the operations working group and the human performance group.

Homendy said this will be the last press briefing on the crash, but work will continue.

Authorities released more information about those who died after the crash and the condition of the crash’s survivors.

Alaska State Troopers late Tuesday identified the deceased as Ketchikan man Randy Sullivan, 46, Australian man Simon Brodie, 46, St. Louis woman Cassandra Webb, 62, Utah man Ryan Wilk, 39, British Columbia woman Elsa Wilk, 37, and San Diego woman Louis Botha, 46.

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Four patients were flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle earlier this week for treatment for serious injuries and are still receiving care. All four are now in satisfactory condition, Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg told the Juneau Empire.

“All are going to be OK,” she said this morning. “The group wanted to mention they’re all grateful to those who helped at the scene.”

Patients include a 67-year-old man, a 61-year-old man and woman who are married and a 63-year-old woman, Gregg said. Previously, the 67-year-old man was in critical condition.

She said ailments ranged in severity, included many fractures and injuries suffered to the arms, leg, pelvis and spine were among the injuries.

The four people do not wish to speak to media at this time, Gregg said.

In Ketchikan, three of the injured have been discharged from Ketchikan Medical Center, according to the medical center’s marketing and communications manager Mischa Chernik.

Three patients are still receiving treatment, all are in fair condition.

• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

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