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Woodinville winemaker, Spokane civil rights activist among plane crash victims

Those in the Woodinville winemaking industry said this is a devastating blow to the community and the industry.

WOODINVILLE, Wash. — KING 5 confirmed with two prominent winery owners in Woodinville and family members that one of the people on the plane that crashed near Whidbey Island on Sept. 4 was local winemaker and owner Ross Andrew Mickel of Ross Andrew Wineries.

KING 5 spoke with several winery employees off camera on Monday who said they are in disbelief and it is a huge loss to the community.

According to their website, Ross Andrew wineries started in 1999. Sources KING 5 spoke with said other members of his family were also on the plane.

Family members released a statement:

“We are deeply saddened and beyond devastated at the loss of our beloved Ross Mickel, Lauren Hilty, Remy and their unborn baby boy, Luca. 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. We want to thank all the first responders, emergency service agencies of Whidbey Island, Island County, the United States Coast Guard (USCG), Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI), and the private citizens who participated in the search and rescue efforts following the crash. The enormous outpouring and support we have received from our friends, family, and the public has been overwhelming. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who also lost loved ones on-board. At this difficult time, we are requesting that our privacy be respected as we grieve the loss of our family members.”

RELATED: Coast Guard releases all 10 names of Whidbey Island floatplane crash victims

The Washington State Wine Commission also released a statement about the family:

“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.” 

Spokane civil rights activist Sandy Williams was also among the 9 passengers lost in the seaplane crash on Puget Sound in Seattle.

According to Spokane City Councilmember Betsy Wilkerson, Williams was on vacation celebrating her 61st birthday a week beforehand with friends before the plane crashed. Wilkerson also said that Williams was preparing to come back to Spokane to celebrate the re-opening of the Carl Maxey Center.

Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh tweeted a tribute to Williams.

"This weekend, our community has tragically lost a leader, teacher, activist and powerful voice," McCulloh wrote.

The plane was flying from Friday Harbor, a popular tourist destination in the San Juan Islands, to Renton Municipal Airport when it crashed, 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. 

Officials said nine adults and one child were aboard the aircraft. The body of one female has been recovered.

Woodinville wineries are a tight-knit group of business owners. According to Woodinville Wine Country, there are 130 wineries in the area winemaking districts.

Kristin Stengel has worked in the industry for about three years and said the loss of any winemaker is a huge blow to the state. 

"Losing a winemaker is like losing a member of your family," Stengel said. "It’s a really tight-knit community and it will be a devastating blow to the entire winemaking industry in Washington and not to mention the particular business, their customers, their club members.”

KING 5 reached out to the Washington State Wine Commission who said they are not going to comment on the situation until authorities officially release names. 

The Coast Guard released the names of all 10 people aboard the floatplane just after 6 a.m. Tuesday.

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