Andy Hail, Spokane Valley Fire, deputy chief, 509.370.5482
Thursday, May 7, 2015 at Midnight
At 3:54 p.m., Thursday, May 7, Spokane Police and Fire departments received a report from Felts Field Air Traffic Control Tower staff that an aircraft declared an unspecified in-flight emergency. Spokane Police (SPD) and Fire Departments immediately dispatched multiple resources to Felts Field in east Spokane. While enroute, witnesses provided information that a small private aircraft had crashed into the Spokane River immediately to the east of the Upriver Dam. The plane submerged under water to an undetermined depth after remaining afloat for a short period of time.
While attempting to access the crash site a slow moving freight train impeded and delayed the response of both police and fire responders, with a multiple minute delay. At 4:04 p.m. the response was upgraded to a water rescue event with dispatch of additional resources from Spokane Fire (SFD), Spokane Valley Fire Department (SVFD) and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) Dive Team. Initial responders arrived at the south side of the River to initiate rescue efforts.
A unified command system was initiated to coordinate the rescue and recovery efforts that eventually involved 11 agencies. Watercraft from SFD, SCSO and SVFD supported three SCSO Dive Team members, who extricated 2 adult males from the submerged aircraft and were able to transport the patients to shore where SFD medics initiated resuscitative efforts. The patients’ status and medical conditions are unknown at this time. Specific plane and flight information will likely be provided by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as part of their investigation tomorrow.
An unspecified amount of fuel was observed leaking from the plane. Washington State Department of Ecology (WADOE) personnel are currently coordinating deployment of fuel containment booms and recovery efforts with SFD support.
Law enforcement and fire resources will remain on scene throughout the evening to ensure scene security and continued fuel clean-up efforts while awaiting the arrival of investigators from the NTSB, deployed from Los Angeles.
Further information will be provided in coordination with the NTSB.