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Alaska air carrier involved in 2 fatal crashes suspends operations

The float plane in Monday's crash appeared to touch down on the water, then the front of a float became submerged in the water and the plane cartwheeled.

Taquan Air, the company whose planes were involved in two deadly crashes in Alaska in a week, said Tuesday that it had suspended operations.

"As you can imagine, the past 24 hours have been incredibly overwhelming, and we are reeling from not only the incident yesterday, but also from last week," Taquan Air said in a statement on its website.

"Our priority has been our passengers and their families and our internal staff and pilots. We have voluntarily suspended all of our operations until further notice," said the air carrier, which calls itself one of the most successful float plane operations in Alaska. It operates in the Ketchikan area where both crashes occurred.

A pilot and passenger died Monday afternoon when a de Havilland Beaver float plane crashed in Metlakatla Harbor, south of Ketchikan in the southeastern part of the state. A Taquan plane was involved in a mid-air collision on May 13 in which six people died, officials said.

The causes of this month's crashes are under investigation.

Image: Floatplane crash
A pilot and a passenger are dead after the float plane they were in crashed in a harbor near Ketchikan, Alaska, on Monday, authorities said.Aerial Leask

In Monday’s crash, witnesses reported seeing the float plane land and touch down in the water when the right float “dug in” to the water and the plane cartwheeled, Clint Johnson, chief of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska regional office, said Tuesday.

The plane’s right wing struck the water, and the plane ended up upside-down partially submerged, Johnson said.

"The boats in the area obviously responded, tried to get the folks out," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, that didn't work out."

The right wing was severed and sunk but had not been recovered by Tuesday afternoon, he said.

Police identified the pilot as Ron Rash, 51, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. His passenger was 31-year-old epidemiologist Sarah Luna, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) confirmed Tuesday. Luna was an working with the ANTCH.

On May 13, a Taquan plane and a Mountain Air plane carrying passengers from a cruise ship when they collided mid-air while inbound to Ketchikan.

The Taquan plane, a de Havilland Otter, in that incident was descending from between 3,800 to 4,000 feet to around 3,300 feet over the course of several miles — something the NTSB has said was not abnormal — and the Mountain Air plane, a de Havilland Beaver, was flying around 3,300 feet before they collided.

There were 16 people aboard both planes. Six people died and 10 were rescued.

Taquan has said that only one of the 10 passengers aboard its plane died. The pilot also survived. The Mountain Air plane had four passengers and a pilot aboard, officials have said.

Taquan has been involved in previous crashes in the area.

In July 2018, all 11 people aboard were rescued after a Taquan Air-operated plane crashed into mountainous terrain on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska, west of Ketchikan.

In 2007, a pilot and four sightseers were killed when a Taquan Air float plane crashed in the mountains around 35 miles northeast of Ketchikan, the Associated Press reported at the time. Like the May 13 crash, that also involved passengers taking a side trip from a cruise.

Also Tuesday, another small plane went down in Prince William Sound around 20 miles southwest of Valdez. The three people aboard were picked up by good Samaritans and transported to medical centers, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

A passenger, William Resinger, 75, of Palmer, died after the crash, the Alaska State Troopers said in a statement Wednesday. The pilot and the other passenger survived.

The troopers said that the pilot was "attempting to land in Cascade Bay, but ended up crashing into the water" and that the plane overturned and Resinger was trapped in the aircraft. A photo released by the Coast Guard appeared to show floats on the plane.

Valdez is far from Ketchikan and around 110 miles east of Anchorage.

The Coast Guard was notified of the report that a Cessna A185F Skywagon crashed into Cascade Bay around 2 p.m.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Charly Hengen said it was a private plane and not a commercial flight.

The NTSB said it is investigating Tuesday's crash. The Coast Guard described the weather at the time as calm seas with 2 mph winds.