Search Ends For 9 People Missing In Puget Sound Floatplane Crash

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Search Ends For 9 People Missing In Puget Sound Floatplane Crash
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which occurred about 30 miles northwest of Seattle.

The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended the search for nine people missing after a floatplane crashed in the waters of Puget Sound northwest of Seattle.

A nearby resident said they heard what sounded like a thunderclap at the time of the crash Sunday.

Just after noon on Monday, the Coast Guard said it was halting the search for survivors after “saturating an area” of more than 2,100 square nautical miles (nearly 2,800 square miles).

“All next of kin have been notified of this decision,” the Coast Guard said on Twitter. “Our hearts go out to the families, loved ones and friends of those who remain missing and the deceased.”

The body of a 10th person, an unidentified female, was recovered by a good Samaritan on Sunday after the crash was reported at 3:11 p.m., Scott Giard, director of the U.S. Coast Guard's search and rescue for the Pacific Northwest, said at a new conference.

The identities of the victims were expected to be released Tuesday.

The Northwest Seaplanes flight left Friday Harbor, a popular tourist destination in the San Juan Islands, and was headed to Renton Municipal Airport, the company's base, said Coast Guard spokesperson William Colclough.

The plane went down in Mutiny Bay off Whidbey Island, roughly 30 miles northwest of downtown Seattle and about halfway between Friday Harbor and Renton, a suburb south of Seattle.

The Coast Guard learned through the seaplane company's owner that two Friday Harbor seaplanes took off Sunday afternoon and the owner was aboard one of the flights, Giard said. The owner told authorities he saw the other plane divert slightly off course and he tried to make radio contact but was unable to.

“Shortly after that, he noticed on his flight tracker that the flight had stopped tracking and notified authorities," Giard said.

Officials received reports that “the aircraft dropped suddenly at a fair amount of speed and hit the water,” Giard said. “We don't have any video or pictures of the incident as of this moment.”

There was no distress call or distress beacon from the crashing plane, he said. The aircraft has an electronic locating transmitter onboard, but they have not received any transmission.

“That is very typical in times where there is either a hard landing or a crash of an aircraft,” he said.

The cause of the crash is unknown, authorities said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Monday they’re sending a team of seven to investigate the crash of the DHC-3 Turbine Otter.

Coast Guard searchers found “minimal debris,” Giard said. By Monday afternoon, they had only found three to four long and 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 sea floor, 150 to 200 feet below, it's difficult to know what happened to the plane, he said.

Floatplanes, which have pontoons allowing them to land on water, are a common sight around Puget Sound, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. There are multiple daily flights between the Seattle area and the San Juan Islands.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.