On Sunday, September 4, 2022, a De Havilland DHC-3 floatplane with a pilot and nine passengers on board crashed in the water off the coast of Whidbey Island in Washington. No one on the plane survived.
The deceased victims of the Puget Sound plane crash have been identified as:
- Gabrielle Hanna
- Patricia “Patt” Hicks
- Lauren Hilty
- Luke Ludwig
- Rebecca Ludwig
- Joanne Mera
- Remy Mickel
- Ross Andrew Mickel
- Sandra “Sandy” Williams
- Jason Winters
According to authorities, the floatplane departed from Friday Harbor at approximately 2:50 p.m. local time in a scheduled commercial commuter flight to Renton Municipal Airport. Roughly 18 minutes into the flight, the plane was at approximately 1,000 feet and traveling at a speed of 140 miles per hour when something went wrong. The plane hit the water in Mutiny Bay, which is off the coast of Whidbey Island and approximately halfway between Friday Harbor and Renton.
Officials told the media that the plane may have entered a nosedive, though they are unsure why. In a briefing on Tuesday, an official from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) noted “the aircraft dropped suddenly at a fair amount of speed and hit the water.” The pilot, Jason Winters, did not issue a distress call before the plane left radar.
Matt Peterson was one of a handful of people in the area who heard the plane hit the water. He and others got in boats and rowed to the plane as it was sinking. “We didn’t see any smoke or any fire when it first hit or when we got out there,” Peterson said. “And there were no big pieces of the fuselage or floats from the plane. It was just the little pieces that floated to the top.”
Noël Jackson was on a sailboat and watched as the floatplane descended at a 45-degree angle into the water. She knew something must be wrong because it was coming down fast in a shipping channel. “I knew it must be an emergency,” she told the Seattle Times.
What Caused the Puget Sound Plane Crash?
It will likely take NTSB officials 18-24 months to finish their investigation and report on the cause of the crash off Whidbey Island. Aviation attorney Timothy A. Loranger says government officials will analyze the wreckage (if it can be located in the water), review the flight data, and examine the plane’s maintenance records, among other things.
“Anytime an aircraft suddenly drops off radar, there is always concern that something went wrong with the airplane,” says Loranger. “The investigators will seek to determine what, if anything, went wrong with the aircraft and analyze the actions of the pilot for any anomalies. Most importantly, the families who lost loved ones in this crash need answers.”
A preliminary report on the crash will be issued within the next few weeks. The final report will outline the cause (or causes) of the crash as well as highlight any relevant safety issues that investigators find.
Victims of September 4, 2022 Puget Sound Plane Crash
Authorities have identified all of those on board that perished in the floatplane crash off the coast of Whidbey Island.
Lauren Hilty, Ross Mickel, and Remy Mickel
Lauren Hilty was on the floatplane with her husband, Ross Mickel, and the couple’s young son, Remy. Mickel was the owner of Ross Andrew Winery. The couple’s young daughter was not on the plane. Lauren Hilty is the sister of “Smash” actress Megan Hilty also known for her role in “Wicked” on Broadway. Megan Hilty issued a heartfelt Instagram post in which she noted that her sister Lauren was eight months pregnant with a little boy, Luca.
In a statement, the Mickel and Hilty families said: “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."
Sandra “Sandy” Williams and Patricia “Patt” Hicks
Sandy Williams was a civil rights activist who founded The Black Lens, and a community center, Carl Maxey Center in Spokane, Washington. Washington State Senator Andy Billig, who serves the 3rd legislative district of Spokane, noted in a social media post that Sandy was “a leader in the best sense of the word. She worked with others to create a vision for positive change, crafted a plan to achieve that change. Then, she dug in to do the work and others lined up to follow her. Her incredible work to create the Carl Maxey Center will leave a legacy of positive impact for generations to come and she was also a driving force to create and pass the bill to transition surplus WSDOT land in East Central from vacant lots into badly needed housing. You will be missed, Sandy. RIP.”
Williams was on vacation with her partner, Patt Hicks, a retired schoolteacher who lived in Los Angeles.
Gabrielle Hanna was a Seattle attorney with Cooley. The firm issued a statement noting that Gabrielle “Gabby” had spent the entirety of her all-too-brief legal career at the firm. “In her few years with the firm, Gabby had already established herself as a true talent and team player who was dedicated to providing our clients with service and advice of the highest quality. As importantly, Gabby was always quick to smile and was a true believer in — and contributor to — the Cooley culture. She will be deeply missed.”
Joanne Mera, who was on vacation at the time of the crash, lived in San Diego and was the CEO of a successful event company. She is survived by her husband of over 30 years, her three children, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews. The Mera family issued a statement noting that Joanne “was someone everyone gravitated towards, she was the life of any party and the soul of our family. She was the best mom, wife, sister and friend. Our hearts are shattered, not just for our family’s loss, but for the loss we know other families are feeling right now.”
Luke Ludwig and Rebecca Ludwig
Luke and Rebecca Ludwig were a married couple from Minnesota. The couple had embarked on a Pacific Northwest vacation when tragedy struck. Both were 42 and lived in Excelsior, a Twin Cities suburb. Luke and Rebecca leave behind children.
Jason Winters had been a pilot since 1995 and had worked for Northwest Seaplanes since 2013. He leaves behind a wife and children. A verified GoFundMe for Winters’ family was established in the wake of the fatal crash. Hundreds of people donated more than $80,000 in just a few days.
Details on De Havilland DHC-3 Turbine Otter Floatplane
De Havilland DHC-3 floatplane specs:
- Crew: Up to two pilots
- Passenger Cabin: Up to 11 passengers
- Length: 45 feet, 2 inches
- Wingspan: 58 feet
- Engine: Turboprop Pratt & Whitney PT6A-27 or Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34
- Maximum Speed: 160 miles per hour
- Range: 945 miles
According to government data, the De Havilland DHC-3 has been involved in*:
- 70 total accidents/incidents
- 9 involved fatalities
- 28 total deaths
*Data does not include this most recent De Havilland crash in Washington
Floatplane Owned by Northwest Seaplanes
The floatplane that crashed near Seattle, Washington on Sunday was operated by West Isle Air (dba Friday Harbor Seaplanes). Northwest Seaplanes owned the aircraft.
According to court records, Northwest Seaplanes previously settled a lawsuit stemming from a 2010 plane crash that killed a young child. The deceased child’s family filed a complaint against the plane’s engine manufacturer, another company, and Northwest Seaplanes. According to the lawsuit, Northwest Seaplanes conducted inspections of the aircraft and replaced engine components but failed to account for metal burrs accumulating in the engine that could damage its performance.
Northwest Seaplanes agreed to a settlement before trial. However, the trial court and the Washington State Court of Appeals both ruled that Northwest Seaplanes’ actions did not cause the crash.
Aviation Attorneys with Proven Track Record in De Havilland Plane Crash Cases
Plane crash lawyers from the award-winning law firm of Wisner Baum have litigated numerous cases stemming from De Havilland plane crashes. Our legal team knows what it takes to gather evidence and identify negligence or product liability. Whether the crash involved maintenance issues, air traffic controller negligence, pilot error, defective parts, manufacturing issues, or other factors, we can help you obtain justice and maximum compensation.
Since opening our doors in the early 1970s, our firm has built a proven track record of success vigorously pursuing claims on behalf of victims and their families. Below are just some of the reasons clients choose Wisner Baum to handle their aviation accident cases:
- We have won over half a billion in verdicts and settlements for aviation accident victims.
- We have settled over 150 aviation cases for $1 million or more.
- We are the first U.S. law firm to secure an official public apology from an airline after a fatal plane crash.
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If you would like more information about pursuing a plane crash lawsuit, contact us or call (855) 948-5098 to schedule your free consultation with one of our skilled aviation accident attorneys.