By DAN FOX
A wheeled Alaska Seaplanes Cessna 207 carrying four people made an emergency water landing during a Skagway to Juneau flight in the morning on Aug. 14. The four passengers, and the pilot, survived with no injuries, according to a press release from Alaska Seaplanes.
The plane took off that morning in Haines, came to Skagway to pick up additional passengers and then headed for Juneau. At approximately 6:53 a.m., the Juneau Police Department reported to Alaska State Troopers that the plane had gone down in the water on the east side of Coghlan Island, just three miles west of the Juneau International Airport.
According to a dispatch release from the State Troopers, the plane experienced a mechanical issue three miles out from its destination, and the engine stopped functioning properly.
The pilot, 33-year-old Joshua Dee Poirier of Juneau, made an emergency call to the Juneau Federal Aviation Administration Tower and ultimately decided to land the plane in the ocean, approximately 150 feet from Coghlan Island. The plane sank, but all five occupants were able to swim safely to shore.
“We commend the actions of the pilot through this emergency and are very thankful for the outcome,” the Alaska Seaplanes release stated. Alaska Seaplanes declined to release the passengers’ names for the sake of privacy.
Noreen Price, an aviation accident investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, said the water where the plane was set down is estimated to be around 60-80 feet deep.
United States Coast Guard and Capital City Fire and Rescue personnel were notified and coordinated a response, according to the State Troopers.
Another Alaska Seaplanes aircraft, a Cessna 206 with floats, responded to the scene and retrieved the four adult passengers. The pilot was later retrieved from the beach by helicopter.
The investigation into the incident is still in its preliminary fact-finding phase, according to Price.
The plane was pulled up out of the water the day of the accident, by about 6 p.m., and was quickly put on a landing craft.
The plane was then transported to the Juneau airport, where it was stored in a secure hangar facility for investigation.
Following the incident, Price said she has worked with Cessna, the FAA, Alaska Seaplanes and others to examine the airplane and engine. Investigators look at everything involved in the accident, including survival factors, pilot competency and the plane’s airframe and engine.
“It’s an all-encompassing investigation,” Price said.
When a plane is in water, there is not a lot of time before it begins to sink rapidly. Price said that ideally passengers would have their life vests on before the aircraft touched down in water.
“These circumstances don’t always have a happy ending, so we’re very glad that everybody was able to egress the plane and get ashore with no injuries,” Price said.