ISLAND COUNTY, Wash. — One of the first people to arrive to the scene of a deadly plane crash near Whidbey Island on Sept. 4 said it looked like the aircraft nose-dived straight into Puget Sound.
Magnolia resident Matt Peterson said he believes what sounded like an explosion a few seconds later was likely the sound of the plane making impact with the water in Mutiny Bay.
Officials said nine adults and one child were aboard the aircraft. The body of one female was recovered. The Coast Guard suspended its search for the remaining nine people on Sept. 5.
Peterson was at his family's cabin at the time of the crash. He said his sister first noticed something was wrong. Everyone on the beach at the time saw the last few seconds before the plane crashed.
After calling 911, Peterson and his step-father went out in their boat to help. Several others joined, he said.
Peterson said there was a strong smell of jet fuel. They only saw parts of the plane and other items floating in the water. Everything else, he said, already sank by the time they arrived.
"The impact seemed to disintegrate everything," he said.
The plane was flying from Friday Harbor to Renton Municipal Airport when the crash was reported at 3:10 p.m., according to the Coast Guard. Data posted on Flight Aware shows the plane last observed near Oak Harbor, which was 18 minutes into what is normally a 50-minute flight.
The plane that crashed was a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter, a single-engine propeller plane, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. A former air safety investigator said it's possible the pilot or plane suffered a significant event, preventing a controlled emergency landing.