COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Following a deadly midair collision above Lake Coeur d'Alene that killed eight people on Sunday, one of the slain pilots is remembered by former colleagues as a successful commercial pilot and business owner.
Liberty Lake resident Neil Lunt, 58, was operating a float plane owned by Brooks Seaplane that was involved in the crash. Online records with the state of Idaho indicated Lunt was the owner of the popular Coeur d'Alene sightseeing company.
As of Tuesday evening, six bodies had been recovered from Lake Coeur d'Alene and National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration investigators had arrived in the area to begin a probe into the accident.
The crash, which occurred North of Powderhorn Bay, also involved a Cessna aircraft that had flown out of Spokane's Felts Field. Passengers aboard Lunt's plane included a family from the Portland area.
Lunt had previously worked as a commercial airline pilot for Skywest Airlines and was based out of Los Angeles International Airport, a source confirmed with KREM.
He purchased Brooks Seaplane in 2018, the Coeur d'Alene Press reported on Tuesday. Noah Lunt, Neil's eldest son, worked as a manager for the sightseeing company that had operated out of the Independence Point dock for decades.
Lunt's wife also worked as a pilot with Skywest, a source confirmed.
"Lost an old friend and colleague over the weekend living his dream," posted Brett Gilner, a colleague of Lunt, online. Gilner indicated that he and Lunt worked together at Skywest.
"Probably the funniest guy I have ever known," he added.
"This is just a shock to us all and a tragedy," said Mark Robitaille with the Coeur d'Alene Convention and Visitor's bureau. "[Brooks Seaplane] has really been a tourism icon on Lake Coeur d'Alene."
Robitaille said that the Lunt family was good to work with. When travel writers visited the Lake City, he said, the Lunts didn't hesitate to offer up their seaplanes as a way to show off the area's beauty.
"They were gracious enough to take us up in the planes and show the writers the area. They're just gracious people," Robitaille said.
In a message to KREM on Tuesday, Noah Lunt said the company was planning to release a statement regarding the tragedy.
Seaplane Company Previously involved in 2004 accident
Under previous owners, a Brooks Seaplane aircraft was involved in a 2004 crash that resulted in substantial damage to one of the company's aircraft, federal records show.
According to an NTSB accident report, a pilot attempting to land a seaplane on Killarney Lake in Kootenai County struck power lines while approaching the water 50 feet above ground.
"In an effort to clear the wires, the pilot immediately added full power and back pressure on the yoke," wrote investigators at the time.
Wires became entangled on the Cessna U206G's left float strut and pulled the airplane into the lake, resulting in a hard landing and "substantial" damage to the aircraft.
Pilot error was attributed to the accident. Neither the pilot nor two passengers at the time were injured.