The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report Friday on the September 15th crash of a turbine Otter float plane in Iliamna. The accident killed three and wounded seven onboard. The plane was owned and operated by the Rainbow King Lodge. It left before dawn to take clients and guides to a day of fishing on a river northwest of Kodiak.
The NTSB has not concluded what caused the accident. But the report details a statement from the only eyewitness that dark morning.
The van driver for the lodge was able to watch as the Otter took off, says NTSB Alaska Office chief Clint Johnson:
“What he explained to us is he saw the airplane initially rotate and become airborne and shortly after that the airplane descended, struck the floats on the water again, the airplane again bounced back in the air or at least became airborne again and at that point descended behind some trees and out of his sight and he was the one who got the first 911 call off and got the rescuers headed that way,” Johnson said.
The plane crashed not far from the end of East Wind Lake. Volunteers from Iliamna and Nondalton and a state trooper helped pull the survivors from the wreck and transported them to the village clinic where they were treated and later medevaced to Anchorage. Johnson said the NTSB has since spoken with all the survivors, including the pilot.
“What they consistently said is they thought they hit something, which right now would lead us to believe that what they heard and felt in the airplane was probably the airplane striking the water again”]
Johnson said the NTSB considers three main issues in an investigation: man, machine, and environment. So far, they have not ruled any out as possible causes of the crash. He says the Otter’s Honeywell turbine engine will be sent to a Honeywell factory in Phoenix Arizona for tear down in October, he said. The NTSB does not expect to release a final report on this accident for another nine to 12 months.