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U.S. Navy Plans to Salvage Crashed Seaplane Off Whidbey Island

deep drone
Deep Drone 8000 (U.S. Navy file image)

Published Sep 16, 2022 9:48 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy's salvage arm has agreed to help the National Transportation Safety Bureau recover the wreckage of a seaplane that went down off Whidbey Island earlier this month. 

On September 4, a de Havilland DHC-3 seaplane was en route from San Juan Island to Renton, southeast of Seattle. At about 1500, as it transited off the west coast of Whidbey Island, witnesses saw it climb up slightly and then pitch nose-down in a "near-vertical descent." The pilot and nine passengers were killed when it hit the water; only one body, identified as 29-year-old Seattle resident Gabby Hanna, has been recovered. 

With help from the University of Washington and NOAA, NTSB launched a search for the wreckage of the plane. It located the site in about 190 feet of water in Mutiny Bay - about 30 miles northwest of Seattle - on September 12. 

Starting on September 26, the U.S. Navy will use an ROV and a crane barge to pull pieces of the plane up for examination. The crew will work around the clock once the barge is in place, NTSB said. The unit deployed will be a Deep Drone 8000, a work-class ROV used by the Navy's Supervisor of Diving and Salvage (SUPSALV) for midwater salvage missions. 

The aircraft was not equipped with a flight data recorder, as it was not required for compliance on a plane of its size, but it did have a commercial-grade proximity warning system which may contain some recoverable data, NTSB said. 

The agency released the results of a preliminary investigation on Friday, with no significant conclusions; it suggested that it could take another two years for it to reach a root cause determination for the crash.