2 Critically Injured, 10 Others Receiving Medical Care After Plane Goes Off Unalaska's Runway

7 hours ago

The scene near Unalaska's airport, photographed on the evening of Thursday, Oct. 17.
Credit Megan Thomson-Dean

11:20 p.m. Update

Two passengers were critically injured — and 10 others received some level of medical attention — after a PenAir airplane arriving from Anchorage went off the runway at Unalaska's airport on Thursday evening, according to PenAir officials.

"PenAir Flight 3286 (marketed by Alaska Airlines) departed Anchorage for Dutch Harbor and upon landing at approximately 5:40 p.m. went off the end of the runway," said a PenAir statement released around 11 p.m. "We have been informed that two passengers were critically injured and ten others are receiving medical care in Unalaska. All others passengers are being cared for."

The runway at Unalaska's airport, photographed from Mount Ballyhoo in 2017.
Credit Berett Wilber/KUCB

There were 39 passengers and three crew members on the flight, according to PenAir.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of our passengers and crew, and the family members of everyone with loved ones on this flight," said PenAir CEO Dave Pflieger in the statement. 

PenAir officials also said the airline, which is owned by Ravn Air Group, "is in close contact and fully cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which will be investigating this accident."

NTSB spokesperson Keith Holloway confirmed the investigation in an email around 10:30 p.m.

"We are currently gathering information about the accident and should have more information [in the] morning," said Holloway.

Airline officials said, “PenAir and Ravn have established a family assistance line for everyone who has loved ones on this flight. Please call 1-800-757-4784 if you need any additional information.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates. 

-- -- -- Earlier story, updated at 10:50 p.m. -- -- -- 

At least four people were injured when a PenAir airplane arriving from Anchorage went off the runway at Unalaska's airport on Thursday evening, though the extent of the injuries was unclear.

The reason the plane did not stop at the end of the runway was also unclear.

As police officers, fire personnel, and emergency medical service providers responded to the scene, Interim Police Chief John Lucking declined to answer questions while the response was underway. But when Mayor Frank Kelty asked him if there were any casualties, Lucking said "no" shortly after 6 p.m.

An ambulance was seen leaving the airport for the clinic with its lights flashing at 6 p.m. Then, between 6 and 6:40 p.m., three more people were taken out of the airport on stretchers and away in ambulances. All three of those people were conscious and sitting upright, with at least one holding an ice pack.

City Manager Erin Reinders said all passengers and airline crew on the flight manifest were accounted for, according to a report by first responders, though she didn't know how many people were on the Saab 2000 plane.

The Alaska Daily News reported that 38 passengers and three crewmembers were onboard, citing an email from Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Allen Kenitzer. Kenitzer did not immediately respond to KUCB's request for comment on Thursday night.

Reinders said she was at the airport to welcome the evening flight, which brought Cordova's school swim team for a meet, as well as speaker Heath Day, who's scheduled to lead a teen workshop for Unalaska's United Method Church on Saturday.

Reinders is an Unalaska swim team coach and Methodist church leader. She said Day and all of the Cordova visitors were safe.

"We watched one [landing] attempt, and [the plane] was going with the wind, [approaching] from the Hog Island side [of Mount Ballyhoo]," said Reinders. "Then it went back up [for] a second attempt. It went with the wind again. It did land, so all the wheels were on the ground. And then it wasn't stopping. It was slowing down, and it was apparent that it was slowing down, but it wasn't stopping."

"I don't know if it was coming [too] fast or if it wasn't able to break [enough] or if there was a gust," continued Reinders. "That stuff — it wasn't readily apparent."

A spokesperson for PenAir and Ravn Air Group, which bought PenAir in 2018, declined to comment when reached by phone on Thursday around 9:10 p.m.

"We don't have anything to release at this time," said spokesperson Debbie Reinwand. "I'm working with the Ravn emergency operations center right now."

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating what happened.

"We are currently gathering information about the accident and should have more information [in the] morning," said NTSB spokesperson Keith Holloway in an email around 10:30 p.m.

Three passengers on the flight told KUCB that there was intense turbulence as they approached Unalaska and that the plane seemed to be moving very fast. Asked if the pilots made any announcements at that time, one passenger said there were none.

Kelty said he saw the pilots apparently unharmed and walking around outside the airport after the landing. He said they went to the police station to give interviews to the authorities.

A photograph taken by Unalaska resident Megan Thomson-Dean (above) showed a LifeMed Alaska medevac flight arriving at the airport. It's unclear if anyone on the flight has been medevaced off the island.

The PenAir plane went off the east side of the runway and stopped around the intersection of Airport Beach and Ballyhoo Roads. The nose of the plane was tipped over the edge of the roadside and onto rocks above the water of Iliuliuk Bay and the Port of Dutch Harbor. The plane did not appear to be in the water.

The extent of the plane's damage is unclear. Some photographs circulating on social media showed an apparent dent and broken window on its left side.

Unalaska's Department of Public Safety announced the closure of roads near the plane in a public announcement released at 6:09 p.m. The notice asked the community to avoid the area along Airport Beach Road between Delta Way and Tundra Drive. 

The department also asked the community to avoid using cell phones while the response was underway.

"Public Safety is currently responding to an emergent incident and phone lines need to be cleared during such," said another public announcement released at 5:24 p.m. "We ask for your cooperation during this time."