Three crew members in good condition after LifeMed plane crashes into Unalaska Harbor

Two boats responded to rescue the crew of a medical transport flight that crashed in Unalaska Bay Jan. 16, 2020. (Courtesy Meg Thomson-Dean)

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) -- Three occupants of a LifeMed Alaska plane are in good condition after their plane crashed after takeoff in Unalaska.

The plane was headed for Adak when it crashed into Unalaska Bay and then sank, sparking an oil cleanup activation.

LifeMed Alaska says the pilot and two crew members -- a nurse and paramedic -- were on their way for a routine medical transport Thursday morning when the plane experienced an "unknown issue which forced an emergency water landing."

"Through skill, training and composure, our pilot and two crew members were able to safely evacuate from the aircraft with minimal injuries," LifeMed Alaska CEO Russ Edwards wrote in a release. The company has temporarily suspended its operations.

The King Air aircraft crashed at about 8 a.m. The three people onboard were able to evacuate in a life raft and were rescued within minutes by the U.S.Coast Guard in good condition. LifeMed Alaska says they were taken to the health clinic for evaluation and will be brought back to Anchorage Thursday evening.

LifeMed says Aero Air operated the plane, but that the two companies work in a close partnership.

The city says the aircraft is between the end of the runway and Hog Island in Unalaska Bay. It's about 100 feet northwest of the end of the runway in 60 to 100 feet of water, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

When the plane sank, it sparked a spill cleanup response from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. DEC says there is a visible sheen on the water.

In an afternoon call with the media, CEO Russ Edwards said the company is doing a safety stand-down of all operations until at least 8 p.m. Thursday evening. He said he would revisit the decision and whether to extend that stand-down later in the afternoon. Even if the stand-down is ended, the company's Unalaska base would halt operations for an undetermined amount of time.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident. The chief of the NTSB's Alaska regional office, Clint Johnson, said Thursday that a recovery crew in Dutch Harbor is working to recover the airplane.

"As far as probable cause, way too early at this point," Johnson said Thursday. "First on the agenda is to be able to talk to the flight crew, or the pilot in this case... the health and well beign of that pilot comes first and foremost, so when the time comes, we'll hopefully have the chance to be able to sit down with him or her and find out what happened from his or her standpoint."

Johnson said he believed the plane had a cockpit voice recorder which, if recovered, will be sent to NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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