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Floatplane wreckage recovery off Whidbey Island underway

The National Transportation Safety Board and the U.S. Navy will begin efforts to recover the wreckage of the floatplane that crashed off Whidbey Island.
Credit: KING
A barge and crane arrive in Mutiny Bay off Whidbey Island on Sept. 26, 2022 to recover wreckage from a floatplane crash.

SEATTLE — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the U.S. Navy began efforts Monday to recover the wreckage of the floatplane that crashed off Whidbey Island on Sept. 4.

A barge that's been outfitted with equipment to conduct the recovery entered the shipping channel Monday. It was expected to drop anchors near the suspected location of the wreckage before a team arrives at the barge Tuesday.

The U.S. Navy will use a work class remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Deep Drone 8,000, a barge and a crane to recover the wreckage from the seafloor. Officials said the ROV will collect smaller pieces of wreckage into baskets and connect the wreckage for the crane to lift, the NTSB said. This will be a "24/7 operation" once the barge is in place.  

Some items from the airplane have already been recovered, according to the NTSB, including foam fragments from the plane's floats, a seat cushion, a seatbelt, dispatch paperwork, flooring structure remnants and some personal items from the victims.

The NTSB released its preliminary report on Sept. 16 detailing the moments leading to the floatplane crash. NTSB said the information contained in the report is preliminary and subject to change as the investigation progresses. 

Officials said determining the probable cause for the accident could take between 12-24 months.  

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The plane was flying from Friday Harbor, a popular tourist destination in the San Juan Islands, to Renton Municipal Airport when the crash was reported at 3:10 p.m., according to the Coast Guard. The plane crashed in Mutiny Bay off Whidbey Island, roughly 30 miles northwest of downtown Seattle and about halfway between Friday Harbor and Renton.

RELATED: Whidbey Island floatplane crash: Here's what we know

Nine adults and one child were aboard the aircraft at the time of the crash. The body of one woman, who has been identified as Gabrielle Hanna, was recovered by a good Samaritan. The other nine passengers are still missing.

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