Medevac crew rescued after plane crashes near Unalaska

A small launch from the Resolve Magone Marine salvage vessel Makushin Bay returns to the ship after placing a marking buoy at the fuel sheen from the submerged wreckage of a LifeMed Alaska King Air plane which crashed during takeoff around 8 a.m. on Jan. 16. (Photo by KUCB)

A LifeMed medevac flight crashed into the water Thursday morning near Unalaska shortly after taking off from the island’s airport. No one was seriously hurt.

The air ambulance was headed to Adak to medevac a patient. It went into the water about 100 feet northwest of the end of the airport runway.

Unalaska Acting City Manager Marjie Veeder said city rescuers responded after a 911 call came in at 8:04 a.m.

“Our dispatchers immediately dispatched the ports vessel Tidebreaker to the scene, and the three persons on board the plane … had self-evacuated to a life raft. They were transferred to the Tidebreaker at 8:24 a.m.,” Veeder said.

LifeMed CEO Russ Edwards said he’s grateful the crew escaped serious injury. He said the cause of the mishap wasn’t immediately clear.

“Factors we’ve checked into as far as weather conditions were VFR weather conditions, a little wind, some gusts,” Edwards said. “But nothing unusual for Dutch Harbor this time of year.”

Edwards said a different air carrier was able to pick up the Adak patient.

State environmental regulators responded to a potential spill of hundreds of gallons of fuel. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation said the plane spilled jet fuel into Unalaska Bay, which is home to several federally-listed endangered species, including Steller sea lions, Northern sea otters and Steller’s eiders.

DEC said divers were unable to reach the submerged plane on Thursday.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Thursday’s crash was the third air ambulance crash in Alaska in less than a year. Nearly a year ago, a Guardian Flight plane crashed in Southeast Alaska, killing the three-person crew. And in November, a Security Aviation ambulance crashed while en route to Seward. Three people were killed in that crash as well.

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