Lee Elliott was well known for his skilled craftsmanship as a master carpenter. However, Elliott’s family told KIRO 7 he found his true passion and freedom in the cockpit of his 1974 Cessna 150m.
“He loved to fly,” said Elliott’s brother, Scott. “To be honest with you, it was the way he would have wanted to go."
On Sunday at 5:15 p.m., the 70-year-old Elliott was piloting his plane on a sightseeing tour over Elliott Bay near Bainbridge Island with his girlfriend, Joan Burns, when, according to family, they descended to get a closer look at a group of seals near the shore.
Scott Elliott said his brother was checking a navigation app on his I-Pad when the couple realized they were flying too close to the water.
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“According to (Joan), they crashed into the water and the plane filled up immediately. She was lucky to get out of there,” Scott Elliott said. “She said the whole cockpit was as black as the ace of spades. But she managed to unbuckle and get out."
Escaping the cockpit with critical injuries, Burns was rescued by boaters who saw the crash and heard her in the water calling for help. She was rushed to Harborview Medical Center. Witnesses on the shore saw the plane sink quickly in 100 feet of water.
After searching for hours by sea and air, the U.S. Coast Guard told the family they never saw any sign of Elliott or his airplane.
“I tip my cap to them for their dedication,” said Scott Elliott. “I know he had a good life and he was a great guy. Wow, he went out big.”