At least 80% of floatplane wreckage pulled from water near Whidbey Island; six victims recovered

Efforts to recover the wreckage from the fatal Whidbey Island floatplane crash began Monday, with the majority of the wreckage retrieved on Thursday.

According to Island County Emergency Management, six of the ten victims have been recovered. Five have been identified.

Investigators are still trying to determine if human remains that washed ashore at the Dungeness Spit two weeks after the crash is the seventh victim.

National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy says crews have been working 24/7 to get the wreckage out of the water. She says while they have been up to the task, there have been challenges getting the wreckage out, such as the current impacting the remotely operated vehicle crews are using to reach the wreckage.

“At times, when it is so strong, the ROV can’t even move through the water,” Homendy said.

She also tells KIRO 7 she can’t imagine what the families of those lost are going through during this time.

“The hardest part of my job is talking to families after terrible, terrible tragedies. I have no idea what they are going through, but I can imagine as a mom, a wife how difficult this must be to lose a loved one,” Homendy said.

The Sept. 4 crash into Mutiny Bay killed nine adults and a child. So far, only one person’s body has been recovered.

The NTSB found the sunken plane a few weeks ago, but with a current of 3 to 5 knots, conditions were too dangerous for divers.

The investigation and preparations have been ongoing for recovering all the victims, but Monday’s efforts focused on raising the wreckage. Crews used a remote-controlled barge and crane to pull up the plane.

KIRO 7 spoke with a dive team expert who specializes in recovering cars.

He said recovering the plane would be a slow and challenging process.

“Even with a (remotely operated vehicle), it is going to be extremely challenging to be able to bring this plane up safely as well as containing the evidence inside of this plane,” said Doug Bishop, lead diver for Adventures with Purpose.

On Thursday, Homendy said crews plan to be out in Mutiny Bay for a few more days as they continue to get all of the wreckage out. Homendy also said the investigation on how the plane went down continues beyond the recovery process.

“And at the same time, we will be requesting, which we have already, information from the operator, from the Federal Aviation Administration, and others to help us do this investigation,” Homendy said.