(Image obtained by FOX 13 Seattle)
WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. - Three pictures obtained by FOX 13 News are shedding new light on the devastation following the float plane crash that killed 10 people.
The man behind the camera was, according to him, the first boat on the scene after hearing the loud boom. Neither he, nor his wife, saw the plane crash. However, they turned toward the loud noise and witnessed a column of water that hung in the air for an estimated 10 seconds.
"We are both just coming to grips with what we witnessed," he said. "Absolutely tragic."
The pair rushed in, in hopes of helping the people inside the plane. According to the eyewitness, they received a U.S. Coast Guard stress call while they were already heading toward the crash site.
He estimated that they arrived within 5 minutes of the crash – despite arriving quickly, they only saw a limited amount of debris along with an oil slick.
"(I) feel tremendous grief that we weren’t able to do more – or, really anything – to save those lives," he said. "Heartbreaking."
The description meshes with locals who were near Mutiny Bay, off the west side of Whidbey Island on Sunday when the plane crashed.
Rick Rasmussen told FOX 13 that he missed the crash itself too, but saw the water column described by the boaters.
"We didn’t’ see anyone pull anyone in, picking up any wreckage or anything," described Rasmussen, explaining why he wasn’t aware a plane had crashed until some time later. "We couldn’t see anything. We had binoculars and we couldn’t see any parts or pieces of anything."
The U.S. Coast Guard, along with help from Whidbey Island Fire Department and the U.S. Navy, continued to search throughout Sunday and overnight into Monday afternoon. Despite the long window of search, few items have been retrieved.
It’s unclear whether a larger piece of the fuselage is sitting on the floor of Puget Sound, or somewhere inside Mutiny Bay – rescue crews had initially said that they were searching in areas with depths of 150-200 feet of water.
"I think you can be surprised sometimes when you see the consequences of a high speed contact with water," said Mike Slack, an aviation expert and lawyer who has tried cases involving float plane crashes. "It absolutely shreds metal. So, they’ll have some challenges putting this one together."
FOX 13 was on the ground Sunday when a few items of debris were brought back to shore. The Coast Guard has reported a few pieces of metal, some foam from the plane, and a few personal items have been recovered.
The NTSB arrived on the island on Tuesday to begin their investigation. A team of seven people will look at a variety of information – but the investigation will take weeks, if not months, to complete. Typically, a preliminary findings report isn’t issued until 2 weeks later.