KETCHIKAN, Alaska (KTUU) - Charles Hanas, known as Chuck by his friends, was the first person to arrive at the scene of Monday’s fatal two plane collision in Ketchikan. He and his wife Colleen Nesbitt were aboard their boat, the “Hotel California,” when they saw a plane going down in George Inlet. Hanas quickly steered toward the plane while sending out a call for coast guard assistance over the radio.
“When I came closer, I saw a bunch of people floating in an area of 50 or 60 yards,” Hanas said. “The airplane crashed and went tail up... then sank within minutes.”
As it turns out, that plane was the Taquan Air “otter” plane that went down during the mid-air collision.
Hanas got into his inflatable raft and began pulling the injured passengers to shore while his wife kept their boat off the rocks and out of the way.
“I went to the first person, one woman was calling for help and when I got to her she was bleeding quite a bit, but her husband, or the man that was with her, was not doing well. I think it ended up that he had a broken back.”
Hanas told KTUU that because he was unable to lift the injured passengers into his small raft, he maneuvered up to several people one by one and had them hold onto his raft while he towed them to shore.
It wasn’t until he’d gotten all 10 survivors to shore that the pilot told Hanas one passenger had died inside of the airplane.
He also didn’t know there was another plane involved until other vessels started responding to assist with the rescue.
The planes ended up more than a mile apart on opposite sides of George Inlet. Hanas guesses he was there for about 20 minutes before the next boat arrived to help
It’s likely that Hanas saved several passengers that were too injured to swim, but he told KTUU he was simply doing what he could until more help arrived.
“I don’t think anybody’s ever ready for it, but I’ve commercially fished all of my life so I’m familiar with the ocean, he said. “There wasn’t much that I could do with no medical equipment. I just kept saying help is on the way.”
Copyright 2019 KTUU. All rights reserved.