Ketchikan plane crash survivor recounts experience

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — The time was approaching half past eight in the morning in Alaska on Tuesday, following a small tourist plane's departure from a fishing lodge on Noyes Island. The weather was cloudy with low visibility and hazy fog.

Two Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews rescue 11 people after a float plane crashed 39 miles south southwest of Ketchikan, Alaska, on Prince of Wales Island, July 10, 2018. A

Eleven passengers and light cargo bound for Ketchikan were on board a small floatplane managed by Taquan Air, when the pilot apparently noticed rising terrain ahead of him and attempted to climb to avoid it, but ultimately collided with it instead.

The crash happened at 8:35 a.m. when the plane hit a mountain on Prince of Wales Island southwest of the town and about 2,000 feet above sea level.

"It was just terrible," said Chris Newbill, a Ketchikan local who was a passenger on the plane when it struck the terrain. But she, all crew and passengers aboard survived the crash with few injuries outside bumps and bruises.

Newbill's first response when it happened was to text her husband as soon as possible.

"I didn't know if he was going to get the text right away," she said. "I was like, 'Holy crap, what do I say?' And I said, 'We crashed.' And that was it."

Despite suffering a broken bone in her back, Newbill, like the other ten aboard the aircraft, was able to walk away from the crash site. Or at least, be whisked away by a U.S. Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter crew waiting to take them to safety.

Simply seeing the Coast Guard appear left Newbill in disbelief after the crash.

"That was incredible," she said. "It was kind of surreal at first. We saw the helicopter through the fog and realized they could actually see us. Very relieved."

The helicopter they'd spotted would be the one to hoist them all from the crash site to safety.

"That was terrifying," Newbill said. "But it was - I mean, it was relief, because I knew it was over. That was the main thing, was that I knew they saw us."

Newbill expressed gratitude for all those involved in the rescue of her and her fellow passengers, including the volunteer crew that helped them all to safety.

"They're incredible," she said. "They must love their job or they wouldn't be doing that. They've got to be incredibly caring people, strong people, calm people in chaos."

She even knew a few of the people in the volunteer corps.

"This has happened before," she said. "I knew three of the four Guardian flight people there. That was really cool; I knew them and I knew they'd take care of everybody."

As of Wednesday, two people remained hospitalized due to injuries sustained in the crash, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB also said Wednesday that it expects a preliminary report to be released on Tuesday, July 17.