Eight people are believed to be dead after two planes crashed into each other in a mid-air collision over the Coeur d'Alene Lake in Idaho before sinking on Sunday afternoon, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office.
Bodies of two of the victims of the crash were recovered from the water but their identities have not yet been confirmed. Initial reports claim there were a total of 8 passengers and crew members on board both aircraft, including adults and children, who are still unaccounted for. "At this time, it is believed there are no survivors," said Lt. Ryan Higgins.
One Plane's Wing Struck the Other's Cabin
According to eyewitnesses, the two planes struck each other above the water before plunging into the lake near Powderhorn Bay at about 2.20 p.m. on Sunday. According to one of the witnesses, Patrick Pearce, he was pulling his jet ski from the dock when he noticed two single-engine planes flying into each other about 800 to 900 feet above water.
Pearce, a pilot himself, claims the planes were traveling at fairly high speeds judging by the engine sounds before the crashing into each other. He believes that a wing of one plane collided into the other's cabin. Another witness, John Cowles, also said he saw one of the aircraft's wings detach from the body before falling into the water.
Witnesses Kept the Bodies From Floating Away
Carissa Lehmkuhl, who was boating with her friends on the lake at the time of the crash, witnessed an explosion and then debris falling down. Lehmkuhl and her friends rushed over to the wreckage and made a gruesome discovery
"Us and kinda another boat were like the first ones at the wreckage and spotted two bodies pretty fast," she said, "and two of the guys in our boat jumped out and yeah, held the bodies from floating away.
Multiple local agencies, including the sheriff´s marine teams, local fire departments and the United States Coast Guard, responded to the crash.
A sonar team located both planes at a depth of about 127 feet. However, they will not be recovered before Monday or Tuesday as the Kootenai County dive team is reportedly not equipped to conduct a recovery operation that deep and a commercial dive team would be required to explore the wreckage for any victims or evidence. They will be using a barge to lift pieces of the plane out of the lake.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a federal body that investigates civil transportation accidents, will likely take over the investigation in the coming days, Higgins said. The NTSB identified the aircraft as a Cessna TU206G and a de Havilland DHC-2.