Three people were rescued after a LifeMed medical evacuation plane crash-landed in the icy waters of the Bering Sea shortly after taking off from the Aleutian island of Unalaska Thursday morning.
The Beechcraft King Air 200 turboprop plane was headed to the Aleutian island of Adak, about 380 miles west of Unalaska near the Russian border on a “routine medical transport” when it went down due to “an unknown issue,” LifeMed CEO Russ Edwards said in a statement, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
The Unalaska Police Dept. said the plane went down in Unalaska Bay around 8 a.m. in the “pitch black” darkness. The airplane was floating in the water between the end of the runway and Hog Island, about 400-500 yards offshore, local authorities said.
Weather conditions at the time of the crash were misty and overcast with wind gusts between 14 and 23 mph, the National Weather Service told the Anchorage Daily News. The plane took off at the “tail end of a harsh Aleutian Islands windstorm,” but authorities haven’t said whether they believe those conditions may have contributed to the crash.
A vessel owned by the city of Unalaska reached the downed plane in less than half an hour. Rescuers found the plane’s pilot and two crew members in a life raft and took them to an Unalaska clinic for evaluation and treatment of unspecified injuries. All three were said to be in good condition.
Local officials contacted the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The federal agency will lead an investigation of the crash, likely with help from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The plane sank hours after it crash-landed in the water. Clint Johnson, head of the NTSB’s regional office, said that a crew was dispatched to Dutch Harbor to recover the sunken plane, Anchorage’s KTUU Channel 2 reported.
“As far as probable cause, way too early at this point,” Mr. Johnson said, according to KTUU. “First on the agenda is to be able to talk to the flight crew, or the pilot in this case.” He added that investigators would interview the pilot once he or she recovered from the incident.
LifeMed CEO Russ Edwards commended the plane’s pilot and crew in a statement. “Through skill, training and composure, our pilot and two crew members were able to safely evacuate from the aircraft with minimal injuries.”
LifeMed temporarily suspended its operations after the crash.
Mike Andrews, a lawyer in the firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability section, focuses much of his practice on aviation accident litigation. He has represented people seriously injured in aviation crashes, and the families of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes. Currently, Mike represents family members of victims in the Ethiopian Airlines crash involving the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.