Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Passengers, pilot uninjured after emergency water landing


August 17, 2017

No one aboard an Alaska Seaplanes flight was injured Monday during an emergency water landing three miles outside of Juneau after the 207 Cessna’s engine failed.

The plane, on the Haines to Skagway to Juneau run, landed about 80 feet offshore of Coughlin Island at around 6:30 a.m. Monday Aug.14, according to National Transportation Safety Board accident investigator Noree Price.

Haines’ Luck Dunbar was one of four passengers on the flight. He was sleeping when the sound of engine trouble woke him up.

“I’m a fisherman and sometimes a guy will take a nap with the engine running and a slight sound change will wake him up,” Dunbar said.

Dunbar asked the pilot what was happening after he noticed the plane lower than normal. He said the pilot didn’t have enough time to explain but told him they were going to land on a patch of water near Coughlin Island.

“I’ve never been on that log ride where you go down the flume and it shoots up water,” Dunbar said. “It must have been like that for a minute. The pilot did an amazing job. He slowed the plane right down, set it down and kept it upright the whole time.”

Juneau resident Josh Poirier, 33, piloted the Cessna, according to the Alaska State Troopers.

Dunbar, the rest of the passengers and the pilot opened their doors and swam to shore. Dunbar said they didn’t have time to put on life jackets. He had a hard time recollecting how far they swam or how long they waited for rescue because it all happened so fast.

“We were all really cold,” Dunbar said. “We kind of huddled together. My legs were shaking like I had pistons in my knees. I was just popping. We watched (the plane) sink from the beach.”

The plane sank in about 50-80 feet of water, Price said.

A U.S. Coast Guard boat and an Allen Marine boat were nearby but didn’t see the survivors waving their arms for help, Dunbar said.

An Alaska Seaplanes floatplane landed on the beach and flew them back to Juneau where Capital City Fire and Rescue medical personnel treated them. No injuries were reported. Alaska Seaplanes gave them warm clothing and a hot breakfast, Dunbar said.

Dunbar had another flight scheduled to Sitka the same day to pick up his new boat. He was in Juneau hanging out with a family member waiting for his departure.

“I’m not too stoked about it but I’m going to get my new fishing boat so I’m excited,” Dunbar said. “Excitement trumps fear I guess. I’m just sitting here with my cousin feeling pretty thankful.”

Alaska Seaplanes retrieved the plane from the water Monday afternoon and transferred the aircraft to a secure hangar in Juneau, Price said.

Investigators will work with representatives from engine manufacturer Continental Motors and Cessna to determine what caused the power loss, Price said.


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