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2 survive plane crash near Ketchikan

Posted: March 13, 2012 - 2:25pm  |  Updated: March 14, 2012 - 5:45am

A small plane crashed near Ketchikan Tuesday morning, leaving two people with serious injuries, according to a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman. The two were the only people on the aircraft, the spokesman said.

The pair, whose ages, genders and names haven’t been released yet, suffered trauma to the head, face and back and sustained broken bones, Sector Juneau’s Chief of Enforcement officer Lt. j.g. James Dooley said in a phone interview. Dooley said he could not presume to say whether the injuries were life threatening or not.

The survivors were flying from Niblack, a mining site on southeast Prince of Wales Island about 27 miles away from Ketchikan, to Ketchikan, and they crashed en route, Dooley said. The cause of the crash is unknown at this point, Dooley said.

Dooley said the plane was owned by Southeast Aviation, which is an airplane charter company based out of Ketchikan that does flightseeing and bear-viewing tours, as well as providing international air charter services to British Columbia. Reached before 6 p.m., a person answering phones for the company said she could not comment since she doesn’t work there and is just helping out, but that one of the owners was flying back to Ketchikan Tuesday night in response to the incident.

The survivors were found in the aircraft in the water south of Ketchikan and were pulled out of the aircraft by crew members of a good Samaritan vessel, Dooley said.

The vessel, S.S. Niblack, responded to an urgent marine information broadcast put out by the Coast Guard, District 17 spokesman Grant DeVuyst said in a phone interview.

The Coast Guard’s Sector Juneau coordinated the search and rescue after received a report from Southeast Aviation of an overdue plane around 11:17 a.m. Tuesday, which is around the same time they received an emergency locator transmitter beacon from a nearby aircraft. The plane was overdue by an hour, and the urgent marine information broadcast asked boaters in the area to be on the lookout for the aircraft, DeVuyst said.

The Coast Guard also launched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Sitka to look for the plane, as well as a motor lifeboat from Ketchikan and the Coast Guard cutter Naushon. The Alaska State Troopers responded by launching the patrol vessel Enforcer, according to a Coast Guard press release.

The good Samaritan vessel S.S. Niblack found the downed airplane and the two survivors from a beach northeast of Niblack airport around 11:51 a.m., according to the release.

They were taken to a barge called the Niblack Project, where two helicopters from Temsco Helicopters, Inc. retrieved them and flew them to Ketchikan for medical treatment, the release said.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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