The sole survivor of a Southeast Alaska plane crash that killed three people is now being treated at a Colorado hospital where her family describes her tale of recovery as "miraculous."
Ketchikan resident Morgan Enright, 21, is working with physical, occupational, and speech therapists daily. She had her first shower last weekend and is “happily eating and drinking throughout the day,” her mother posted on CaringBridge, a website for shared medical updates.
Chere Klein, Enright’s mom, said she’s not ready to speak publicly about her daughter’s experience in the April 8 crash but gave KTUU permission to write about it based on her CaringBridge posts.
Enright was on her way from Wrangell to Angoon for work when the Cessna 206 she was flying in crashed on Admiralty Island at 9:12 a.m. The plane went down in steep, snowy terrain about 17 miles southeast of Angoon, a mostly Tlingit community located in the coastal rainforest.
Pilot David Galla, 60, was killed along with passengers Greg Scheff, 61, and Thomas Siekawitch, 57. All three were from Wrangell.
The Coast Guard launched a helicopter from Sitka and located the plane’s wreckage at 11:17 a.m., according to the National Transportation Safety Board. The chopper couldn’t land due to hazardous weather.
At 1:55 p.m. the Coast Guard, along with Sitka Mountain Rescue, returned to try again. Ron Duvall, a volunteer with Sitka Mountain Rescue, was among the group of four first responders.
The helicopter dropped them off on a ridge, Duvall recalled in an interview today with Channel 2. Two rescuers hiked down to the crash site while the other two stayed above to watch for possible avalanches.
“We saw Morgan move her arms. We radioed back to the helicopter that there was a survivor,” Duvall said.
Duvall and his partner started removing gear and luggage strewn about the plane, along with the seat Enright was strapped in. When the two other rescuers arrived, they extracted her from the plane, which was nose down in the snow.
One person stabilized Enright's neck. Another held her hips while another stabilized her feet.
Duvall said, “Her eyes were not open. She was cold to the touch."
But she was alive.
After extracting her from the plane, Duvall and the team placed Enright in a Coast Guard basket along with a rescue swimmer. The helicopter hoisted her inside.
Enright was medevaced to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center in critical condition.
Doctors placed her on dialysis to help her kidneys function. A ventilator assisted her with breathing.
Three days after the crash, Klein wrote that her daughter’s condition was precarious but that she was "steady."
“In her extremely critical condition this is very positive,” Klein wrote.
Enright began breathing on her own a week after the crash. When she would open her eyes, Enright recognized her family. She would squeeze hands when instructed by a nurse. Soon her brain pressure monitor was removed.
By April 20, 12 days after the crash, Enright moved to the acute care unit after having surgery on left leg two days earlier.
“She will need a skin graft in the near future but overall a stable day!” Klein posted on April 18.
When she was a bit more stable, Enright was able to sit in a gravity chair.
Earlier this month, Enright started eating ice chips and apple sauce, and drinking milk. On May 6, her mom posted that Enright’s kidneys were working again.
“Morgan said it’s time to celebrate with a Mimosa!” Klein wrote.
Harborview Medical Center discharged Enright to the care of a rehabilitation center in Englewood, Colo., on May 12 where she continues to improve.
Part of Enright’s recovery involves getting visits from a variety of therapy dogs.
“From Newfoundlands to mini-Schnauzers; many Golden Retrievers and Yellow Labs have snuggled right up in bed. Thank goodness for all the folks willing to share their special dogs!” Klein wrote.
A final NTSB report on the crash is expected to come out in early July. Meantime, Duvall, the rescuer, has been monitoring Enright’s progress on CaringBridge.
“I’m ecstatic. I’m dumbfounded," he said. "I’m not sure I could put a good adjective on the emotions that come with seeing her recover."
Story and photo gallery: http://www.ktuu.com
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Juneau FSDO-05
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 135: Air Taxi & Commuter
Accident occurred Friday, April 08, 2016 in Angoon, AK
Aircraft: CESSNA 206, registration: N50159
Injuries: 3 Fatal, 1 Serious.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On April 8, 2016, about 0912 Alaska daylight time, an amphibious float-equipped Cessna 206 airplane, N50159, sustained substantial damage after impacting snow-covered, rising terrain about 17 miles southeast of the Angoon Airport, Angoon, Alaska. The airplane was operated by Sunrise Aviation, Inc., Wrangell, Alaska, as a visual flight rules (VFR) commercial on-demand flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 135. Of the four people on board, the commercial pilot and two passengers sustained fatal injuries, and one passenger sustained serious injuries. Visual meteorological conditions (VMC) prevailed at the time of departure, and company flight following procedures were in effect. The flight departed from the Wrangell Airport, Wrangell, about 0810, destined for Angoon.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), along with another NTSB aircraft accident investigator and members of Juneau Mountain Rescue, reached the accident site on the morning of April 9. The wreckage was in an open area of snow-covered rising terrain, at an elevation of about 2,240 feet mean sea level (msl). The impact area was sloped about 27 degrees. The airplane impacted the snow in a near vertical attitude and sustained substantial damage to the fuselage and wings.
The area between Wrangell and Angoon consists of remote inland fjords, coastal waterways, and steep mountainous terrain.
As part of their company flight following procedures, Sunrise Aviation incorporates Spidertracks, which provides company management personnel with a real-time, moving map display of the airplane's progress. In addition, the accident airplane was equipped with a digital, 406 MHz ELT that instantly transmits a distress signal to search and rescue satellites, thereby alerting rescue personnel within minutes of the location of the crash.
During an interview with the NTSB IIC on April 12, the operator's director of operations stated that while flying another company airplane, he spoke with the accident pilot on a company radio frequency. The accident pilot commented to the director of operations that while en route to Angoon, he was unable to make it through Pybus Bay due to low clouds and reduced visibility, and that he was going to try an alternate route that had a lower terrain elevation. The director of operations added that about 15-20 minutes after speaking with the accident pilot, he landed in Wrangell and noticed the Spidertracks signal was stationary, in an area of mountainous terrain. He then called personnel at the Angoon airport and was told the flight had not arrived, and attempts to contact the accident pilot on his cell phone and aircraft radio were unsuccessful. Shortly thereafter, he received a phone call from the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center notifying him of a broadcasting 406 Mhz emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal assigned to the accident airplane.
About 1025, after being notified of an overdue airplane, and after learning about reports of an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) signal along the accident pilot's anticipated flight route, search and rescue personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka launched an HH-60 helicopter to search for the airplane.
About 1054, the airplane's wreckage was located by a helicopter operated by Temsco Helicopters.
About 1117, the crew of a U.S. Coast Guard HH-60 helicopter located the airplane's wreckage in an area of steep mountainous, snow-covered terrain. However, due to hazardous weather and terrain conditions, the helicopter crew was unable to lower a rescue swimmer to the site, and the crew retuned to Sitka to pick up rescue personnel from Sitka Mountain Rescue.
About 1355, the HH-60 helicopter returned to the accident site and landed on an adjacent ridgeline, and members of Sitka Mountain Rescue and the Coast Guard hiked to the accident site. Once on scene, they discovered that three of the airplane's occupants died at the scene, and one had survived the crash. The sole survivor was hoisted aboard the Coast Guard HH-60 helicopter, and then transported to Juneau.
The airplane was equipped with a Continental Motors IO-550 series engine. A detailed examination is pending.
The closest weather reporting facility is Angoon Airport, about 17 miles northwest of the accident site. At 0956, an aviation routine weather report (METAR) from the Angoon Airport was reporting in part: Wind calm; sky condition, few clouds at 2,300 feet, broken clouds at 4,200 feet; visibility 10 statute miles; temperature 45 degrees F, dew point 43 degrees F; altimeter, 29.75 inHg.