BREAKING: Airplane down near Jones Island (with links to KING5 & FOX13 reports)

UPDATED: 5:35 p.m.

Helicopter — estimated 250 feet up — appears to be searching shoreline around Crane Island at approximately 5:15 p.m. Tom Bridge photo

At 11:40 a.m. today, a plane crashed off the northeastern shore of Jones Island Marine State Park, which is located west of Deer Harbor on Orcas Island. Jones Island is a 188-acre park for campers, with no residents.

FOX13 News in Seattle is reporting that retired Air Force Major General and NASA astronaut William Alison “Bill” Anders, 90, has been identified as the pilot inside. The airplane was a vintage Air Force Beechcraft T-34 Mentor which was owned by Anders, according to FOX13. Anders was on NASA’s Apollo 8 mission. FOX13’s reporting is here.

KING5 Channel 5 News in Seattle has a video report, including apparent video of the crash, here. (WARNING: VIDEO MAY BE DISTURBING). KING 5 is reporting that Seattle tourists Philip Person and his wife Katy witnessed the incident from a cabin on Orcas Island and recorded it on a cell phone. Additionally, KING5 is reporting the plane has been located in the water.

“Earthrise” World famous photo shot by NASA astronaut Bill Anders on December 24, 1968 during the Apollo 8 mission.

CNL2 TV director Dave Schnuckel reports that the depth of the water in the area is approximately 100 feet.

Bill Anders was one of the first three persons to leave Earth’s low orbit and travel to the Moon. He’s also famous for snapping the iconic photo called Earthrise, which forever changed the way the Earth was seen in the context of the universe. That photo was shot on December 24, 1968.

In 1996, Anders and his wife Valerie founded the Heritage Flight Museum at Bellingham International Airport. The museum was moved to Skagit Regional Airport in Burlington in 2014. Read more here.

A transcript of a very interesting oral history of Anders, recorded in 1997, is here.

A series of fascinating photos from Ander’s NASA career is here.

Anders was also part owner of Cayou Quay Marina, a private marina across from Deer Harbor Marina on Orcas Island.

Earlier, San Juan County Sheriff Eric Peter issued the following statement:

William Anders in 1964. NASA photo

“The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, along with personnel from the WA Department of Fish & Wildlife and U.S. Coast Guard are currently on the scene of a reported aircraft that went down off the coast of Jones Island, in San Juan Channel. The first report of this incident came into our Dispatch center around 11:40 AM reporting that an older model plane was flying from north to south then went into the water near the north end of Jones Island and sunk. There is no information at this time if there were any other people on the plane other than the pilot. 

“An official request for dive team assistance was sent to personnel from WDFW and CBP/DHS who agreed to respond and are currently working on a plan to respond and assist.”

The Seattle Times reports that the NTSB expects to release a preliminary report on the crash in 30 days.

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