Whidbey Island plane crash wreckage not yet located, NTSB says

Tom Chapman, one of four National Transportation Safety Board members, described the known circumstances of Sunday's floatplane crash near Whidbey Island during a press conference Tuesday evening. (Sarah Grace Taylor / The Seattle Times)

Mukilteo — Officials have not yet located wreckage from the floatplane that crashed Sunday into Mutiny Bay off Whidbey Island, killing all 10 people aboard, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. 

Tom Chapman, one of four NTSB members, told reporters Tuesday evening that while officials are reviewing maintenance records, weather conditions and other data points related to the crash, they hadn’t located enough wreckage to investigate the cause.

“We feel confident that the wreckage will be located, but at this point that effort is still underway,” Chapman said, more than 50 hours after the incident.

He said the crash was “an unusual situation under any circumstances” and that a lack of similar incidents makes it hard to determine a timeline for the recovery of the wreckage. 

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1 of 2 National Transportation Safety Board member Tom Chapman, right, huddles with his team Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in Mukilteo, before a press conference about Sunday’s fatal floatplane accident. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)
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2 of 2 National Transportation Safety Board member Tom Chapman said during a press conference that the floatplane wreckage still has not been located, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in Mukilteo. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

The impact, current and depth of water in the assumed crash site have complicated search efforts by the NTSB, U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies since Sunday. 

Difficulty locating the wreckage could prolong the investigation.

“That makes it a little more unpredictable,” Chapman said. “Those efforts are ongoing. It’s hard to predict how long it’s going to take.”

The victims of the Whidbey Island floatplane crash

Active search and rescue efforts were called off Monday as the NTSB took over the investigation and recovery efforts.

Investigations into such crashes often take 12 to 18 months, Chapman said.

Six NTSB investigators have been working with the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission since Monday to find the plane. Officials are using sonar and divers to attempt to locate remnants of the aircraft.

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A Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police boat searches the northern shore of Mutiny Bay Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, west of Whidbey Island, two days after a floatplane crashed in these waters, killing 10. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

It’s unclear whether the wreckage is concentrated in one area or if it’s in smaller pieces that may have dispersed. Only one of 10 people on board has been accounted for. 

All are presumed dead, according to Chapman. 

Chapman said the agency hasn’t determined the cause of the crash and will not “speculate” about what caused the plane to plunge into the Puget Sound. 

He confirmed witness reports that the plane likely entered the water nose first, at high speed. 

The plane was in the air for around 35 minutes before the crash and was flying at an altitude of about 1,000 feet. The pilot had taken the plane on other trips earlier the same day. 

Chapman called for witnesses with information or media relevant to the investigation to contact the NTSB at witness@ntsb.gov.

Sarah Grace Taylor: 206-464-2166 or staylor@seattletimes.com; .