SPOKANE, Wash. - At least eight people, including three children, were killed when two airplanes collided over a scenic mountain lake in northern Idaho, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
One of the aircraft was a float plane operated by Brooks Seaplane of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which operates charter flights for tourists over Lake Coeur d’ Alene, the sheriff’s office said.
That plane was carrying five passengers, including three children, and a pilot, the sheriff’s office said.
The second airplane was a Cessna 206 that was carrying at least two people, the sheriff’s office said.
A sheriff’s dive team found the wreckage in about 125 feet of water, and the bodies of three victims have been recovered so far, the sheriff’s office said.
“We don’t anticipate any survivors,″ sheriff’s Lt. Ryan Higgins said. “We think everyone is deceased.″
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are headed to the scene and will conduct the investigation into what happened, the sheriff’s office said.
The planes collided in the air near Powderhorn Bay about 2:30 p.m. Sunday and plunged into the water, Higgins said.
The large and popular lake, which is surrounded by vacation homes, was busy with boaters on the Fourth of July weekend. Numerous personal boats went to the scene immediately in search of survivors. The sheriff’s marine teams, fire departments and the U.S. Coast Guard also responded.
The first two bodies were recovered on the surface by recreational boaters and turned over to the Coast Guard, Higgins said.
The three recovered bodies had not been identified, Higgins said.
The float plane appeared to be carrying a father and three of his children, another passenger, and the pilot, he said.
The second plane was registered in Lewiston, Idaho, but it had departed from Felts Field in nearby Spokane, Washington, Higgins said.
Witnesses told news outlets they saw the two airplanes flying towards each other and colliding in mid-air, then plunging a few hundred feet into the lake.
“You could just see debris falling with it and can tell it was obviously an airplane in the sky,″ witness Angie Bishop told KREM-TV.
The float plane was a de Havilland DHC2 that was built in 1956 and was owned by Brooks Seaplane, according to a Federal Aviation Administration data base. The plane was a fixture on the city of Coeur d’Alene waterfront, where Brooks is based. A makeshift memorial to the victims was set up at the Brooks site on Monday.
The other plane was a Cessna 206G registered to Echo Rental Co. of Lewiston, Idaho, according to the database. Officials are pretty sure only two people were aboard that plane, Higgins said.
“The airplanes sank fairly quickly″ after colliding, he said.
The sheriff’s dive team cannot operate at the depth of the bottom of the lake, so a small remote-controlled robot submarine was sent down late Sunday and recovered the third victim, Higgins said.
The bodies of two additional victims have been located at the lake bottom, but not yet recovered, Higgins said. The search continued for the other three victims, he said.
“Diving at that depth is very dangerous,″ Higgins said.
The air space over the lake did not appear to be any more crowded than usual on Sunday, he said.
“We don’t have any clue what happened,″ Higgins said, other than the planes collided.