The Coast Guard on Tuesday released the names of the passengers and the pilot who are presumed dead after a charter floatplane crashed Sunday near Seattle.
Ten people were on board when the de Havilland DHC-3 Otter floatplane went down off Whidbey Island, about 40 miles north of Seattle, the Coast Guard said in a statement.
The agency called off the search for survivors Monday, saying in its statement Tuesday that it offers its "deepest sympathies to those who lost a loved one in this tragedy."
The Coast Guard identified the pilot as Jason Winters and the passengers as Patricia Hicks, Sandra Williams, Luke Ludwig, Rebecca Ludwig, Joanne Mera, Gabrielle Hanna, Lauren Hilty, Ross Mickel and Remy Mickel, who was nearly 2 years old.
Sandy Williams, 60, was vacationing in Washington's San Juan Islands, her brother Rick Williams, of Arroyo Grande, California, said Tuesday.
Williams founded a Black newspaper, The Black Lens, and a community hub, the Carl Maxey Center, both in Spokane, Washington, Rick Williams told NBC News.
“They used to call her the Black mayor of Spokane,” he said. “She was an advocate for those who didn’t have a voice. She was a staunch fighter for the Black community or for anyone who didn’t have the power to get their needs met. … That was her passion, and that’s what she devoted her life to.”
Williams said his family was in shock at the unexpected loss because Sandy was an “integral part of our family.”
The president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Thayne M. McCulloh, said in a statement on Twitter that "our community has tragically lost a leader, teacher, activist & powerful voice."
"I am devastated to learn of Sandy Williams’ passing and we ... extend our condolences to her family, many friends and colleagues. Sandy: Rest In Peace,” McCulloh said.
Patricia Hicks, of Spokane, was a retired teacher. She was vacationing with Sandy Williams in the San Juan Islands, Williams' brother said.
Joanne Mera, 60, of San Diego, was visiting family in Seattle, her niece Sami Sullivan told NBC affiliate KING of Seattle.
Mera was the CEO of an event management company she co-founded in California.
“Joanne Mera was someone everyone gravitated towards. She was the life of any party and the soul of our family,” Sullivan said. “She was the best mom, wife, sister and friend. Our hearts are shattered, not just for our family’s loss, but for the loss we know other families are feeling right now.”
Mera is survived by her husband of more than 30 years, her three children, sisters, brother, nieces and nephews, Sullivan said.
Ross Andrew Mickel, Lauren Hilty and Remy Mickel
The Mickel family said in a statement to KING that their "grief is unimaginable."
“We are deeply saddened and beyond devastated at the loss of our beloved Ross Mickel, Lauren Hilty, Remy and their unborn baby boy, Luca," the statement said. "Our collective grief is unimaginable. They were a bright and shining light in the lives of everyone who knew them. Although their time with us was too short, we will carry their legacy forward.”
The Washington State Wine Commission said in a statement that the wine community will miss Ross Mickel. “We are deeply saddened by the news about Ross Mickel and his family. Ross had an incredible impact on the Washington wine community and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his loved ones as they navigate this extraordinarily difficult time.”
Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Hanna
Seattle lawyer Gabby Hanna was returning from a friend’s wedding when the plane went down, The Seattle Times reported.
“She was a fierce, fierce young woman, in the best of ways,” her father, Dave von Beck, told The Times on Tuesday. “There are no words to describe the pain. Her family loved her very much.”
Von Beck said in a statement to KING, “Our family and friends are just heartsick with grief at the loss of our beautiful Gabby, who at 29 should have had many decades of a wonderful life still to be lived.”
She attended Garfield High School in Seattle and Occidental College in Los Angeles, KING reported. She competed in swimming at Occidental and majored in philosophy, according to the college’s website.
Luke and Rebecca Ludwig
The Ludwigs were a couple from Minnesota.
“We have nothing to share at this time, other than we are coping with this tragedy with overwhelming support from family, friends, and a loving community," their family said in a statement to KING.
"We ask that the media respect our family’s privacy and allow us to deal with our losses without future media attention or prominence.”
Luke Ludwig was an engineering leader with Arizona-based HomeLight Home Loans.
“The entire HomeLight team extends our deepest sympathies to both Luke and Becca’s families, friends, and loved ones,” the company said in an email. “Luke was a deeply devoted father, husband, outdoorsman, and coach for his kids’ sports teams, known for his remarkable kindness and generous spirit.”
Charter company says it's ‘heartbroken’
Northwest Seaplanes owned the plane, The Seattle Times reported. No one with the company could be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.
In a statement on its website, the company said: “The team at Northwest Seaplanes is heartbroken, we don’t know any details yet regarding the cause of the accident. We are working with the FAA, NTSB and Coast Guard. We have been in communication with the families. We are praying for the families involved, including our pilot and his family.”
Cause of crash remains unknown
Officials got reports that “the aircraft dropped suddenly at a fair amount of speed and hit the water,” Scott Giard, the director of Coast Guard search and rescue for the Pacific Northwest, said at a news conference. “We don’t have any video or pictures of the incident as of this moment.”
There was no distress call or distress beacon, he said. The aircraft has an electronic locating transmitter, but there has been no transmission.
The Coast Guard found “minimal debris,” Giard said. By Monday afternoon, it had found only three to four long, narrow pieces of aluminum, very few personal items, a seat and some small pieces of foam.
Without a clear picture of the actual crash and not knowing whether it exploded on impact or immediately sank to the seafloor, it’s difficult to know what happened to the plane, he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.