ISLAND COUNTY, Wash. — The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) released the names Tuesday morning of the 10 people who were aboard the floatplane that crashed into Puget Sound near Whidbey Island.
The plane was flying from Friday Harbor, a popular tourist destination in the San Juan Islands, to Renton Municipal Airport when it crashed on Sept. 4. The plane crashed in Mutiny Bay off Whidbey Island, roughly 30 miles northwest of downtown Seattle and about halfway between Friday Harbor and Renton.
Nine adults and one child were aboard the aircraft. The body of one female was recovered Sunday by a good Samaritan. The other nine passengers are still missing.
The USCG suspended the search for the remaining nine passengers on Monday.
According to the Coast Guard, the pilot was Jason Winters.
The Coast Guard said the other nine passengers were Patricia Hicks, Sandra Williams, Lauren Hilty, Remy Mickel, Ross Mickel, Luke Ludwig, Rebecca Ludwig, Joanne Mera and Gabrielle Hanna. The USCG said Remy Mickel was the child on board.
“The Coast Guard offers its deepest sympathies to those who lost a loved one in this tragedy,” said Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Cmdr. Xochitl Castañeda.
The plane that crashed was a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter, a single-engine propeller plane, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The plane was operated by Friday Harbor Seaplanes, which is a service owned by Northwest Seaplanes.
“Trudi and I are devastated at the loss of those aboard the plane that crashed near Whidbey Island this weekend,” Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted Tuesday morning. “Our hearts are with their families and communities today.”
What we know about the victims:
Ross Mickel, Lauren Hilty and Remy Mickel
Ross Mickel was a local winemaker and owner of Ross Andrew Wineries. According to their website, Ross Andrew Wineries started in 1999. Sources KING 5 spoke with said Lauren Hilty, Remy Mickel and Ross Mickel were family members.
Ross Mickel’s family members released the following statement to KING 5:
“We are deeply saddened and beyond devastated at the loss of our beloved Ross Mickel, Lauren Hilty, Remy and their unborn baby boy, Luca. Our collective grief is unimaginable. They were a bright and shining light in the lives of everyone who knew them. Although their time with us was too short, we will carry their legacy forward. We want to thank all the first responders, emergency service agencies of Whidbey Island, Island County, the United States Coast Guard (USCG), Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI), and the private citizens who participated in the search and rescue efforts following the crash. The enormous outpouring and support we have received from our friends, family, and the public has been overwhelming. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who also lost loved ones on-board. At this difficult time, we are requesting that our privacy be respected as we grieve the loss of our family members.”
Megan Hilty, Lauren's sister, posted a message on Instagram that states the past few days have been "the worst of our lives."
"There are truly no words to appropriately convey the depth of our grief, Hilty posted.
The Washington State Wine Commission also released a statement about the family:
“We are deeply saddened by the news about Ross Mickel and his family. Ross had an incredible impact on the Washington wine community and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his loved ones as they navigate this extraordinarily difficult time.”
Spokane civil rights activist Sandy Williams was also among the nine passengers aboard the floatplane.
According to Spokane City Councilmember Betsy Wilkerson, Williams was on vacation celebrating her 61st birthday a week beforehand with friends before the plane crashed. Wilkerson also said that Williams was preparing to come back to Spokane to celebrate the re-opening of the Carl Maxey Center, which is a Black-led, Black-centered community center.
Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh tweeted a tribute to Williams.
"This weekend, our community has tragically lost a leader, teacher, activist and powerful voice," McCulloh wrote.
Inslee said Williams was a “giant for civil rights in Washington state,” and that she “gave so much to Washington and particularly the Spokane community.”
ACLU of Washington Executive Director Michele Storms also released a statement:
“We are devastated at the tragic loss of Sandy Williams, a bright light in the fight for truth, racial justice and equity in Spokane and in Washington. Sandy touched the lives of so many in Spokane and across the state. Even as we mourn, we are inspired by her life of leadership and service and by the legacy that she established. Our thoughts are with her family and community on this difficult day.”
The niece of 60-year-old passenger Joanne Mera said she was visiting family members in the Seattle area at the time of the floatplane crash. Mera was born and raised in San Diego and was a successful business owner for more than 30 years. She leaves behind a husband and three children.
Mera’s family sent KING 5 the following statement:
“Joanne Mera was someone everyone gravitated towards, she was the life of any party and the soul of our family. She was the best mom, wife, sister and friend. Our hearts are shattered, not just for our family’s loss, but for the loss we know other families are feeling right now.
“Joanne was 60 years old, a successful business owner of over 30 years in San Diego who was visiting family in the Seattle area at the time of the crash. She’s survived by her 3 children, her husband of over 30 years, sisters, brother, nieces and nephews and a whole lot of people who loved her.”
Gabrielle "Gabby" Hanna
Dave von Beck, the father of Gabrielle "Gabby" Hanna, shared a statement Tuesday:
"Our family and friends are just heartsick with grief at the loss of our beautiful Gabby, who at 29 should have had many decades of a wonderful life still to be lived."
Hanna attended Garfield High School in Seattle and Occidental College in Los Angeles. She competed in swimming at Occidental and majored in philosophy, according to a team bio on the college's website.
Luke and Rebecca Ludwig
Luke Ludwig's employer described Luke as a "deeply devoted father, husband, outdoorsman, and coach for his kids' sports teams." Luke, his team went on to explain, was known for his kindness and generous spirit.
The following statement was shared on behalf of their family:
"We have nothing to share at this time, other than we are coping with this tragedy with overwhelming support from family, friends, and a loving community. We ask that the media respect our family's privacy and allow us to deal with our losses without future media attention or prominence."
Jason Winters was the floatplane pilot.
There's no known cause of the crash at this time, but witnesses described it quickly descending into the water, according to South Whidbey Fire. The NTSB sent a team of seven to investigate the crash.
His family released a statement:
"Jason was a loving father, partner to his spouse and friend to many. We are devastated by the sudden and tragic passing of his life and all of those on board. He was a skilled pilot, with decades of experience. Like all of those impacted, we’re desperately awaiting any answers as to what caused this tragedy. Respectfully, his family and friends ask for privacy as they mourn the loss of life and for all of those impacted."
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Download our free KING 5 app to stay up-to-date on news stories from across western Washington.