1 killed in Tutka Bay plane accident; child in critical condition

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Joseph Patanella’s last name, which was previously spelled wrong in an Alaska State Troopers dispatch report. This article has also been edited to correct the number of children on board, which was originally reported to be four.

3 p.m. update:

The man who died Friday as a result of a floatplane accident near Tutka Bay was the father of a family that made up the majority of passengers, according to a South Peninsula Hospital representative.

In an email, SPH Spokesperson Derotha Ferarro wrote that 57-year-old Joseph Patanella, of Maryland, was one of five passengers that made up a family unit of a mother, father and three children. They were brought to the hospital just before noon Friday after being recovered from the scene of the accident by Alaska State Troopers and the Homer Volunteer Fire Department.

The sixth passenger was a male relative, Ferraro wrote. Patanella was found to be dead upon arrival at the hospital, she wrote. One of the children was treated and released, while the other two children and their mother were flown to Providence Medical Center in Anchorage.

“The adult male relative is in stable condition and currently remains at South Peninsula Hospital,” Ferraro wrote.

The pilot, Engjell Berisha was treated and released, according to Ferraro. The floatplane was owned by Rust’s Flying Service in Anchorage, according to troopers.

2:45 p.m. update:

Alaska State Troopers have released the name of the man killed this morning in a small plane accident near the mouth of Tutka Bay.

Joseph Patanella, 57, of Maryland, died when the plane had an accident during takeoff. His next of kin have been notified, according to an online troopers dispatch report.

There were seven people total on the de Havilland Beaver aircraft — four adults and three children. Troopers report that one of the children is in critical condition and is being treated in an Anchorage hospital.

“All other passengers appear to have sustained non-life-threatening injuries,” troopers wrote in the dispatch. “The pilot was not injured.”

Troopers identified the pilot as Engjell Berisha.

Troopers from the Anchor Point post responded to the accident with members of the Homer Volunteer Fire Department aboard the trooper patrol vessel P/V Augustine. Once all people were transported from the scene of the accident to the Homer Harbor, ambulances from Homer Volunteer Fire Department, Kachemak Emergency Services and Anchor Point Emergency Services took them to South Peninsula Hospital.

An investigation is ongoing, troopers wrote in the report.

Original story:

One person has been killed and five more injured in a small plane accident near the mouth of Tutka Bay, according Alaska State Troopers.

A de Havilland Beaver aircraft had an unknown accident during takeoff Friday morning near the bay that’s across Kachemak Bay from Homer, according to Petty Officer Amanda Norcross with the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District. The Coast Guard got an initial report of a possible plane crash around 10:19 a.m., she said.

Norcross said the owners of Tutka Bay Lodge made a report to the Coast Guard that an incident happened during takeoff and that the plane never actually left the water.

There were four adults and three children on board, and it was reported to the Coast Guard that one person needed immediate medical attention.

Alaska State Troopers Public Information Officer Ken Marsh said that one person was killed in the accident.

“Another is in critical condition and has been flown to Anchorage,” he said.

Four more passengers are injured but in stable condition and remain in Homer, Marsh said. He said one out of the seven people escaped without injury.

An Alaska State Trooper vessel, the P/V Augustine, responded and got all the passengers off the plane, Norcross said. Coast Guard sector watch standers in Anchorage then requested emergency medical services to respond in Homer, she said.

“Initial reports, they stated that the aircraft was conducting a departure in the middle of the (Tutka) bay,” Norcross said.

The plane then “aborted the takeoff,” she said.

Chris Fischer, a Homer resident, was riding his bike on the Homer Spit at the time when local ambulances responded. He said he and others heard sirens while they were on the back side of the Homer Harbor, and saw ambulances staging near the harbor’s load and launch ramp.

“We figured something bad must have happened,” Fischer said.

Fischer said he waited at a bench near the ramp, and later saw a boat come in carrying passengers from the plane.

“All of a sudden there was a rush of activity,” he said. “… A boat came tearing in (to the harbor).”

Fischer said he saw at least five people taken off the boat and transported away by ambulance.

“It was an impressive display from the first responders,” he said.

The plane is registered to a corporation in Anchorage, according to its online tail number registration.

This is a developing story. The Homer News will post updates as more information becomes available.

Reach Megan Pacer at mpacer@homernews.com.