NTSB releases 500 page report that includes video of Whidbey Island floatplane crash that killed 10

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Friday released more than 500 pages of documents, including video, of a floatplane crash that killed 10 people last year near Whidbey Island, Washington.

The de Havilland DHC-3 Otter was headed from Friday Harbor to the Seattle suburb of Renton on Sept. 4, 2022 before plummeting into the water in Mutiny Bay.

In its latest report, the NTSB said it was opening the public docket on the floatplane crash, but that it does not provide the final report or a probable cause.

The report only includes facts collected by investigators who said "no conclusions about how or why the crash happened should be drawn from the information within the docket."

Investigators also said the left elevator of the plane is being recovered from the ocean floor.


3 lawsuits filed in Washington following 2022 seaplane crash that killed 10

Representatives for all but one of the nine passengers killed in a seaplane crash near Washington state’s Whidbey Island are suing the aircraft’s charter operator and its manufacturer.

Click here to see all 60 docket items at NTSB.gov

Previous report focuses on mechanical problem

According to a report released Oct. 24, 2022 by the NTSB, investigators are focused on a key part of the plane's pitch control system, which allows the pilot to steer the plane up or down. They found the components of the horizontal stabilizer actuator - a barrel-like mechanism in the tail of the aircraft - had separated. 

"Once it separates, the pilot doesn't have the ability to control the horizontal stabilizer," said Mike Slack, an aviation lawyer and expert with Slack Davis Sanger. "That's a real problem. When that was lost, aircraft control was lost – the pilot did not have the ability to control the aircraft in pitch from that point."

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Photo from NTSB of plane recovery. 

Slack said the update seems to explain a lot of the questions that surrounded the crash. However, the NTSB will continue its investigation beyond this part.

The chairwoman, Jennifer Homendy, told FOX 13 that their team has to determine why the piece malfunctioned, but they will also continue their work looking at potential factors to ensure they have a full picture of what happened. This update came out of an abundance of caution – essentially a warning to other pilots that fly similar planes.

RELATED: NTSB: Pilots flying same plane model that crashed near Whidbey Island urged to check equipment

According to the 2022 report, the actuator separated where its clamp nut threads into the barrel section, but the threads were not stripped, which would have indicated the component was pulled apart by some outside force.

"It could be anything from it wasn’t put together after some sort of overhaul, it came apart somehow, or it was not fully together," explained NTSB chairwoman Jennifer Homendy. 

The operator of the plane, Northwest Seaplanes, told NTSB investigators that the part was overhauled in mid-April, just shy of five months before the crash. 

RELATED: FAA issues warning about type of seaplane that crashed near Whidbey Island

Later in Sept. of 2022, the FAA issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive to all DHC-3 Otter operators, warning operators of potential cracks and corrosion in the elevator, the movable surface of the horizontal tail that controls the plane’s pitch. 

According to the directive, federal officials received "multiple recent reports" of cracks in the elevator. Operators were required to pull the part for an immediate inspection and report their findings back within 10 days. 

The sudden failure of the elevator can cause a plane to abruptly go nose-down, similar to witness reports of how last month’s crash in the waters northwest of Seattle looked, said Douglas Wilson, a Seattle-based seaplane pilot and president of aviation consulting firm FBO Partners.

RELATED: New photos show devastation after floatplane crashes with 10 on-board near Whidbey Island

Officials previously said determining the probable cause of the crash could take up to two years.