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By SCOTT BOWLEN
Daily News Staff Writer
A pilot and six passengers survived the crash of a de Havilland Beaver float plane in Big Goat Lake on Sunday afternoon.
The incident involving the plane operated by Ketchikan-based Alaska Seaplane Tours occurred between 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the popular flightseeing destination lake located about 45 miles east of downtown Ketchikan in Misty Fiords National Monument.
Few official details about the circumstances of the incident were available by presstime Sunday evening.
Alaska Seaplane Tours’ Marty Rush responded to an inquiry from the Daily News with a brief email confirming that “Our Dehavilland Beaver did incur an incident at Big Goat Lake this afternoon with 6 passengers and a pilot. They are uninjured after being evaluated at the Ketchikan Hospital.”
The Alaska State Troopers public information office did not respond to email or phone messages for comment Sunday.
The Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad was contacted by the Alaska State Troopers at 2:30 p.m., according to KVRS incident commander Chris John.
KVRS contacted Temsco Helicopters and a KVRS volunteer pilot. A Temsco helicopter and a Cessna 185 floatplane both departed the Ketchikan area with KVRS personnel aboard at 3:08 p.m., John said.
Ketchikan resident Dale Curtis was a passenger aboard another company’s flightseeing plane that arrived at Big Goat Lake apparently soon after the incident. The people had made it to shore and were all wet, but reported no serious injuries, according to Curtis
Although the plane that Curtis was aboard had one open seat, the people ashore declined to make use of it, preferring to stay together, according to Curtis. They said they were from a cruise ship.
Local float plane companies Taquan Air and Carlin Air brought the six passengers and pilot from the Alaska Seaplane Tours’ plane to Ketchikan, according to City of Ketchikan Fire Department Chief Abner Hoage.
They were met in Ketchikan by local EMS responders. Five of the seven people were taken to PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center for evaluation.
“Two are saying they have no injures and are refusing treatment,” Hoage said.
Hearing that the passengers were en route to Ketchikan, John recalled the helicopter at 3:30 p.m., before it reached the scene.
The Cessna 185 continued on and landed at Big Goat Lake to “make sure what the scene was,” John said.
Pilots who were in the area noted that the plane was submerged, and the floats were broken and floating on the surface, said John.
“There wasn’t any sign of the airplane,” he said. “There was some debris that was floating on shore, like upholstery and things like that, but the airplane is totally submerged.”
Given the condition of the plane, “it looks to be, like, miraculous that people survived it, and especially in as good condition as they were,” John said. “... There’s the impact, and then there’s the getting ashore. It’s pretty remarkable.”
KVRS had a total of 20 people either engaged or standing by in response to the incident.
In addition to the first helicopter, KVRS had another helicopter standing by with personnel prepared to provide more medical or other assistance as needed, according to John.
A beautiful area that’s a huge draw for flightseeing during the visitor season, the Misty Fiords area has not been immune from aviation misfortune. Prior to Sunday’s incident, the most recent mishap was the June 25, 2015 crash of a Promech Air de Havilland Otter that killed nine people near Ella Lake.
Daily News Staff Photographer Taylor Balkom contributed to this story