The latest: 1 passenger dead in Unalaska plane accident

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Wynn.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Wynn

Updated: 3:40 p.m., Oct. 18

One passenger has died following a Thursday, Oct. 17 plane accident in Unalaska.

The Alaska State Troopers identified the victim as David Allan Oltman, 38, of Washington state, according to Associated Press reports.  Oltman died Thursday night, PenAir announced in a Friday, Oct. 18 statement.

The accident took place when a plane attempting to land slid partway off a runway at Unalaska’s Tom Madsen Airport, also known as Dutch Harbor Airport.  Alaska Airlines flight 3296, operated by PenAir from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor, was also carrying the Cordova Jr./Sr. High School swim team.

“On behalf of PenAir, Ravn Air Group and all our employees throughout the company, we would like to extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and loved ones of our passenger who passed away,” said Ravn Air Group President Dave Pflieger in a statement.

The accident took place at 5:40 p.m., according to a report from Alaska Airlines.  In photos of the accident, the Saab 2000 twin engine turboprop plane is seen with its nose hanging off a shallow embankment over water about 500 feet from the airport.  Police, fire and emergency medical services arrived on the scene within five minutes of the incident, according to a statement from the city of Unalaska.

The aircraft carried 39 passengers and three crew members, according to a report from Alaska Airlines.  Following the accident, 11 passengers were transported to Unalaska’s Iliuliuk Clinic, according to a statement from the city.  One passenger was subsequently medevaced to Anchorage.

The aircraft was apparently forced beyond its planned landing area by high winds, said an eyewitness quoted in an Associated Press reports.  However, the conditions leading to the accident remain undetermined, said Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Allen Kenitzer, the Associated Press reports.

Initial reports from Cordova School District seemingly indicated that none of the 10 students on board, or their coaches or chaperones, had been harmed. However, student Charlie Carroll, 16, had a piece of metal embedded in his left leg during the crash, said Charlie’s mother Lisa Carroll. Charlie Carroll also told his mother that the passenger sitting next to him had broken his leg, she said. Charlie Carroll is planned to be flown to Anchorage for treatment, his mother said.

Two passengers had been critically injured in the incident, and another 10 were receiving medical care in Unalaska, announced Debbie Reinwand, a spokesperson for Ravn Air Group, which owns PenAir, in a statement Thursday evening.

PenAir is cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board, which will be investigating this accident, Reinwand said.  The NTSB had dispatched a team of nine investigators to the site, the agency announced via Twitter on Friday. Agency investigators are expected to be on scene as the flight data and cockpit voice records are removed from the plane, Clint Johnson, chief of the Alaska region for the National Transportation Safety Board, told the Associated Press.

The runway is currently shut down, as the aircraft may still pose a safety risk. However, the runway was not damaged in the incident, and it is hoped that it will be operational by the end of Friday, city of Unalaska officials said.

PenAir and Ravn Air Group have established a family assistance line for anyone with loved ones aboard the flight, at 1-800-757-4784.  The Aleutian Pribolof Islands Association has established a mental health counseling line available at either 907-581-2751 or 907-359-2743.

Reported earlier:

A PenAir plane carrying the Cordova Jr./Sr. High School swim team slid partway off a runway at an Unalaska airport on the evening of Thursday, Oct. 17. The approximately 10 students on board, as well as their chaperones and coaches, were unharmed in the accident, said Cordova School District Superintendent Alex Russin.

The incident occurred around 6:11 p.m. at Tom Madsen Airport, also known as Dutch Harbor Airport. In photos of the accident, the aircraft is seen with its nose hanging off a shallow ledge over water.

Within an hour of the accident, the members of the swim team had been reassembled and were eating pizza, wrote Russin in an email announcement. Unalaska School District Superintendent John P. Conwell confirmed that the students were all accounted for and seemed fine, Russin wrote.

Eyewitnesses said that the other passengers also appeared largely unharmed, although some passengers were transported from the airport in an ambulance, according to an Associated Press report.

“The Unalaska School District is taking care of our students to the best of their ability,” Russin said. “They are safe and secure and our thoughts and prayers go out to everybody involved… The students and chaperones are accounted for — a bit shaken, but safe.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.