UPDATED: Police identify pilot killed in Monday's crash

Metlakatla Float Plane Crash Courtesy: Aerial Leask

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The day after a deadly plane crash near Metlakatla details about the two people on board who were killed are being released.

The Taquan Air Beaver airplane with a pilot and passenger on board crashed at about 4 p.m Monday afternoon. Taquan Air is the operator of one of two planes that collided near Ketchikan last week, killing six people between the 16 on board both planes.

This is the second Taquan Air crash in just over one week.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium confirmed that Sarah Luna, a 31-year-old epidemiologist, died in the Metlakatla crash and the police department in Metlakatla says the pilot was Ron Rash, 51, from Harrisburg, Penn.

Officials say Luna was working on behalf of ANTHC, for about a year, as part of the diabetes team on her way to the small village near Ketchikan.

"Our most sincere condolences go out to Sarah's family and colleagues and we send our thoughts and prayers during this extremely difficult time," ANTHC wrote in a statement.

ANTHC thanked the community and the first responders for their help.

"Sarah joined the ANTHC family nearly a year ago as a Senior Epidemiologist in the Liver Disease & Hepatitis Program. As a person who was truly committed to improving the health and well-being of Alaska Native people, she was an up and coming research professional. Sarah embodied the characteristics most valuable to our team, as a person committed to improving the health and well-being of Alaska Native people," ANTHC wrote.

Luna had recently purchased a home on the lower Hillside in Anchorage. Peonies line the walkway. A woman who answered the door declined to talk.

The National Transportation Safety Board says several family members are flying to Anchorage.

Meanwhile, Taquan flights have been suspended. The company's public relations firm referred all questions to the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.

"As you can imagine the past 24 hours have been incredibly overwhelming and we are reeling from not only the incident yesterday, but also from last week. It’s been a really heavy and heartbreaking time for us. Our priority has been our passengers and their families and our internal staff, and pilots," the company posted on its website. "We have voluntarily suspended all of our operations until further notice. We are grateful for your patience and the outpouring of community support and we will update you as soon as we have more information to share."

According to a Facebook page that appears to be Luna's, this was her first float plane ride. Luna also lived and worked in Rwanda at one point and appears to have had several friends who were pilots in Alaska.

"If Alaska were the size of a piece of paper, the amount accessible by roads would be the size of a postage stamp. Planes big and small are essential here, which means pilots are too," Luna wrote on Facebook.

The National Transportation Safety Board held a press conference about the crash Tuesday afternoon.

"We also offer our sympathies to the staff of Taquan Air. The losses this organization has faced in the past week have been devastating. We stand with Taquan Air, in appreciation of all this company does for South East Alaska in general, and Metlakatla in particular," Mayor Karl Cook of Metlakatla Indian Community wrote in a statement posted on Facebook.

The NTSB is required to investigate fatal aircraft incidents. Generally, it will release a preliminary report within a few days, and that will then be replaced with a final description of the crash and its probable cause, if determined.

"It is way too early draw any conclusions," Clint Johnson, the director of the NTSB's Alaska office, said. He said the agency is, "very much in the early stages in the accident investigation."

This is a developing story and will be updated with more information as we receive it.

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