UPDATE: Small plane goes into water off Beach Drive; no injuries reported

(UPDATED TUESDAY MORNING with plane visible at low tide; TUESDAY AFTERNOON salvage coverage here)

(Photo added 1:26 pm, courtesy Atomic Helicopters)

12:46 PM: Emergency responders are headed to what is reported, by radio communication, as a small plane going into the water off the 6000 block of Beach Drive SW (map). Two people are reported to be safely ashore. Rescuers are now trying to find out if anyone else was on board.

(First photo, courtesy PeterT)

1 PM: We’ve just arrived in the area. Avoid the south end of Beach Drive, as there are no outlets here (between Jacobsen and Lincoln Park Way). SFD reports no injuries, so its land units are leaving, but there are numerous police vehicles, and some sidewalk lookie-loos. And yes, that’s why there are helicopter(s) – TV.

(Photo added, courtesy commenter WIAA)

1:11 PM: Another reader photo added. From the street, the two people who made it out of the plane can be seen in the backyard of a waterfront house, drying themselves off. We’ve confirmed again at the scene that no one was hurt. Here’s our view of the submerged plane, from the street:

(WSB photo by Patrick Sand)

As PeterT noted in comments, police are directing traffic on Beach Drive past the scene, one lane at a time. But it’s still a good idea to avoid the area. Among other things, it’s trash day, and Waste Management trucks are trying to get through too. Meantime, Seattle Fire acting public information officer Lt. Sue Stangl has arrived so we should get more information soon.

(Photo by James Bratsanos)

1:32 PM: U.S. Coast Guard is also offshore with a 45-foot vessel. Meantime, commenter Bob says the pilot’s actions may have saved other lives besides his and his passenger’s.

1:46 PM: Lt. Stangl says the National Transportation Safety Board has investigator(s) on the way. The two men who were on board the plane will be waiting to talk with them. No other details of how it happened, what went wrong, or how the plane will be pulled out of the water – yet.

2:07 PM: Per discussion in comments – and also the most recent SFD tweet – we’re referring to this from this point as an emergency landing.

2:24 PM: Things are starting to wind down here – air and most ground media have left. Police told us earlier, by the way, the nearest residents were apparently home to see this, so they’d been trying to reach them to explain what happened.

4:11 PM: Just went by. The only signs on Beach Drive of what happened earlier are TV trucks – one by the scene, one some distance north at Emma Schmitz Memorial Overlook. A boat is out near the wreckage but we couldn’t tell whose.

EVENING NOTE: We went by again before sunset – no change, no authorities in view, but we will be following up tomorrow, including checking the area on the morning low tide. As commenters have discussed, recordings from Boeing Field tower radio tell the story of how the Cessna’s engine went out and the pilot had to make an emergency landing. We still haven’t heard anything about the two men on board; the plane is registered to a Las Vegas address, according to online records.

ADDED TUESDAY MORNING, 7:42 AM: Thanks to the person who texted this photo of the plane, fully visible at low tide about half an hour ago:

No sign of anyone working on salvage so far.

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Salvage work is now under way – we have a followup here.

52 Replies to "UPDATE: Small plane goes into water off Beach Drive; no injuries reported"

  • lg July 31, 2017 (12:49 pm)

    Big response from what we’re hearing near 5700 beach drive.

  • Alki Resident July 31, 2017 (12:51 pm)

    Oh my gosh. I hope everyone is ok. 

  • Petert July 31, 2017 (12:52 pm)

    Yep. Off 6000 Beach Drive 

  • Petert July 31, 2017 (12:53 pm)

  • carol July 31, 2017 (12:53 pm)

    as usual, WSB is super fast, police and fire engines went down my street only a few minutes before you reported this.


  • Petert July 31, 2017 (12:56 pm)

    Beach Drive closed off to both lanes at that point.

  • Bluehenwig July 31, 2017 (1:03 pm)

    Watched this Cessna (?) gradually descending 400-500 yards off our west facing deck.  Odd there was no engine noise & was quite close to the shoreline. Glad everyone is okay.

  • Petert July 31, 2017 (1:03 pm)

    Plane is resting on bottom in shallow water. Traffic is now being let through under police direction.

    • WSB July 31, 2017 (1:05 pm)

      Thank you for the updates, and the photo. We’re here now but since this is private residential shore I see our photographer up by the fence (this is not far from the huge house that’s been under construction a while) with the lookyloos.

      • Endolyne206 August 1, 2017 (12:34 pm)

        seeing this story made me wonder if you have ever published a story on that unusually huge (massive!)  house under construction on the beach. 

        • WSB August 1, 2017 (12:37 pm)

          Not so far. Looked up the info once. Didn’t seem to be anything unusual, no celebrities, etc., no rezoning involved, just … a big house, and on expensive prime waterfront, there’s more than a few of those.

  • What it's all about July 31, 2017 (1:07 pm)

    Photo from 50th Ave (two blocks up).  Hope everyone OK.  Great emergency landing by pilot.

    • WSB July 31, 2017 (1:07 pm)

      Thank you!

  • Alki Resident July 31, 2017 (1:07 pm)

    Do you know anything about the mansion being built right there.

  • GRA July 31, 2017 (1:08 pm)

    This thing flew right by my deck at eye level about 200 feet above sea level, rapidly descending. No sound when it passed or on impact from my vantage point facing south towards Lowman park. From the moment I saw it, it was very clear is was in trouble. My guess is single engine failed. 

  • Jissy July 31, 2017 (1:13 pm)

    We are at Colman and the ferry is hanging out WAY off course for the passengers to see. Helicopter up too of course.

    • WSB July 31, 2017 (1:35 pm)

      WSF tweeted that the Kaleetan was joining “search and rescue” although the word is still that the two guys who got to shore were the only ones involved so we’re not yet sure what that means. Vessel Watch shows it off Alki Point, pointed north.

  • Petert July 31, 2017 (1:14 pm)

    There are boats standing by to offer assistance, but no rescue craft launched from shore. 

  • Wsneighbor July 31, 2017 (1:16 pm)

    No sound means engine quit. A cessna plane was flying low, westbound, over the junction area earlier today, I wonder if it is the same plane?

  • Petert July 31, 2017 (1:20 pm)

    Police & Fire marine rescue boats attending.

  • Bob July 31, 2017 (1:22 pm)

    This pilot not only saved those on board, but possibly others on the ground. I heard him overhead Eastbound near 100 Ave SW and 45 th Ave SW, it’s the normal flight path. His motor was cutting out and he was trailing white smoke as he banked hard to the Northwest, back towards the water.  The white smoke turned to dark smoke as I lost site of him. Had he continued East, he most certainly would have gone down before reaching the airport. Thank God they are alive. 

  • ScubaMoto July 31, 2017 (1:25 pm)

    It’s great news that the occupants are okay. What an incredible way to have to land!

    If they need another recovery diver I can be there in minutes.

  • What it's all about July 31, 2017 (1:26 pm)

    Better photo.

    • WSB July 31, 2017 (1:54 pm)

      Thank you! Everyone who has kindly sent photos because it’s in your line of sight – I don’t know how long it’ll be until they get salvage out here but please let us know 206-293-6302 (24/7 text/voice) since we’ll eventually have to leave here … thank you!

  • John July 31, 2017 (1:35 pm)

    I saw the ferry diverting course. Clearly the pilot did everything right that he or she could water Landings are dangerous even if you have a plane meant to land on water

  • Kersti muul July 31, 2017 (1:41 pm)

    I received a text about a sputtering, then silent plane heading my way….we live above lowman.

    Thank God for the fast action of this pilot.. relieved everyone is ok

  • ada July 31, 2017 (1:42 pm)

    Wow that is amazing. What a brilliant job by the pilot. So glad that both people in the plane are ok.

  • wsneighbor July 31, 2017 (1:47 pm)

    Thanks for the detailed account Bob. You are right–he saved himself, his passenger & possibly others on the ground by deciding on a water landing. He did a good job too, since they are unharmed & the plane still looks intact.

  • HAK July 31, 2017 (1:57 pm)

    Dang! In the drink. Hope they brought their snorkels. Drag it to shore with a rope and wheel it in.

  • lm July 31, 2017 (1:57 pm)

    There was a plane flying about 30 feet above the water,  Eastbound in front of Alki Beach about 200 yards out over the water, yesterday (Sunday). Seemed like it was showing off, wonder if this was the same plane.

  • Hot Coffee July 31, 2017 (1:59 pm)

    Well, any landing you can swim away from is a good one!

  • Brian July 31, 2017 (2:03 pm)

    I’m a pilot of small planes, and if we go by Bob’s account, then this pilot was likely in communication with Boeing Field tower, doing the standard arrival procedure from the west.  In order to not interfere with planes landing at SeaTac, small planes have to stay below a certain altitude (below 2,000 feet at shore, descending to below 1,100 feet closer to Boeing Field).  Given the population density of the area, when you are that low, your options to ditch are very limited if you have any engine quit.  You likely wouldn’t make it to Boeing Field.  The most selfless choice (and a very dangerous one for a small plane pilot) was to ditch in the water.  They saved the lives of innocent people while very much putting their own life at risk.

    Kudos to this pilot on a successful forced landing.  I don’t think “crash” is the correct word to be used in this case.

    • WSB July 31, 2017 (2:06 pm)

      That’s a good point, and the most recent SFD tweet calls it “emergency landing” so I’ll see what I can do with that from here.

  • zrs July 31, 2017 (2:16 pm)

    SPD diver attaching rope and buoy about tail section

  • LAintheJunction July 31, 2017 (2:26 pm)

    We were on the ferry as this all went down. It was great to see all the boats nearby spring into action, especially when it was unclear if everyone had made it out ok. Sounds like the pilot went “full-Sully” – choosing to make an emergency landing in the water with no casualties. Great job, sir! 

  • Scarlet July 31, 2017 (2:42 pm)

    Listening to the Boeing Field tower recording.  The pilot asked to stay out over the water because his oil pressure was dropping and he didn’t want to try to make it over West Seattle.  His engine then quit and he said he would land either in the water or on the beach.  Kudos to him for a very well handled situation.

    • WSB July 31, 2017 (2:51 pm)

      Thank you for teaching me something new! I’m not going to get to listen immediately but I didn’t know that was all archived online:

      (don’t know if that’s what you’re listening to but it’s the first thing that came up on google and seems bonafide)

      • Scarlet July 31, 2017 (2:55 pm)

        Yes that’s exactly it.  It was the 1930Z archive that covers the situation. You’ll hear the tower ask for “Souls on board and fuel” which is standard in an emergency situation, so they know how many people they’re looking for, and fire risk.

  • Aly July 31, 2017 (2:49 pm)

    That is really scary for everyone involved. I am glad there were no injuries. 

  • Andrew July 31, 2017 (3:00 pm)

    Here’s another picture from up on Atlas.  My contractor was here when it happened – he said it appeared they were engine out….

  • 22blades July 31, 2017 (3:13 pm)

    liveatc is a good source. Bit fussy for the archived stuff but good. Good call to not endanger people.

  • Joan July 31, 2017 (3:54 pm)

    Glad everyone is OK! Lately there have been soooo many small planes flying over my house, soooooooo low. It worries me!

  • Seabruce July 31, 2017 (4:27 pm)

    Wow, we we’re walking in Lincoln Park after lunch along the water on the ferry-side towards the pool, when what must have been this plane flew overhead and the engine cut out. Glad they made it out ok, guess the water was best emergency landing place.

  • Brian July 31, 2017 (4:34 pm)

    LiveATC confirms that engine was out: http://archive-server.liveatc.net/kbfi/KBFI-4SDR-Twr-Jul-31-2017-1930Z.mp3

    Here is the series of events:

    1) The plane, N957TA, a Cessna 172 4-seater, does a standard report over the north tip of Vashon Island at an altitude of 1,900.  He wants to do some work in the pattern, which means he is going to run a few circuits at the runway at Boeing (generally, practicing a few landings).  For reference, the pilot would travel east across Lincoln Park and would need to descend to 1,100 feet by about 35th, and eventually 800 feet just over the ridge from the West Seattle Reservoir.

    2) About 2 minutes later and just SE of Lincoln Park, the pilot reports the have low oil pressure and will need to head to shore.  The tower controller gave the pilot the option to proceed to the field, and the pilot declined and stated they would try to go around Alki Point away from the populated area.

    3) Around 30 seconds later, the pilot states their engine completely quit and will need to land on the water or beach.

    4) About 40 seconds after that, the pilot put it in the water.

    It should be noted how calm the pilot remained throughout all of this.  He made a choice to avoid the densely populated area, and that decision may have saved more than just the lives on board.  When an aircraft is that low (and keep in mind, it is purposefully kept low to avoid traffic overhead at SeaTac), there are few options to restart the engine or glide long distance for safety.  Good decision making is key!

    It should also be noted that other aircraft at and around Boeing Field quickly offered assistance.  A few minutes later, other aircraft reported to the air traffic controller that the plane landed safely and the occupants were okay.

    • WSB July 31, 2017 (4:47 pm)

      Thank you!

    • B July 31, 2017 (4:56 pm)

      Starts around 22 minutes in the recording.

    • desdemona July 31, 2017 (6:06 pm)

      fascinating!  thanks for linking

  • Jeff July 31, 2017 (5:34 pm)

    At 12:38 I looked up from Arbor Heights when I heard a sputtering small plane engine- obviously not running well and trailing whitish smoke. He was in a turn from Eastbound to the north. I told my son “check the Blog in a while, this guys gonna ditch off Lincoln park”. He was low enough that by the time I snapped a picture, he was already pretty far away. Glad they’re OK.

  • TJ July 31, 2017 (9:42 pm)

    LM, a plane “flying about 30 feet above the water ” & “about 200 yards out over the water” in front of Alki would be a clear cut violation of aviation in the city and the pilot would quite possibly lose his liscense for some duration. 

  • Community Member July 31, 2017 (11:03 pm)

    TJ – Do you have a link for that? I looked for one and found this page https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/field_offices/fsdo/atl/local_more/media/nlowfly.pdf

    which says that flying low within 500 feet of shore (or vessels) is a violation. 200 yards = 600 feet. Of course, there ma have been people or vessels, but LM only mentions a distance off shore.

    Of course there’s zero reason to imagine any connection between the two situations.

  • Carolus August 4, 2017 (1:35 pm)

    The SOP flying from Vashon to Boeing Field is to stay at 2,000 feet over the water until you reach the shoreline, then to descend to under 1,000 by the reservoir. I don’t know when the engine quit on this a/c, but if he was at about 2,000 when reading the shoreline, he should have had just enough altitude to reach the West Seattle golf course. He would certainly have had enough to reach the high school soccer field while heading for the reservoir. This is something we emphasize every time we fly over that area — think ball fields or golf course in case of trouble. I’m sure he does the same. So, I’m guessing his engine began to quit over the water, and he was well below 2,000 ft coming to the shoreline. By then, ditching the a/c as close to the shoreline as possible was the only option left. Good work on a tough day!

Sorry, comment time is over.