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'They're heroes in our mind': Bellevue Fire praises bystanders who rushed to help victims of seaplane crash

The involved plane is a single-engine Seawind 3000 and had two people on board, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — One person died and another was critically injured after a plane crashed into Lake Sammamish Friday morning, the Bellevue Fire Department (BFD) said in a social media post.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released preliminary information about the crash, stating the involved plane is a single-engine Seawind 3000. The crash occurred around 11 a.m. 

In a media briefing near the scene, Bellevue Fire confirmed that two men were on board the plane when it crashed. One person was pronounced dead and another was transported to the hospital, BFD said.

Bellevue Fire said several 911 calls came in when the plane crashed. Residents who saw the crash say they saw the plane take off and struggle to stay up before nosediving.

"One resident said they believed it was about 50 feet in the air when it nosedived down into the lake," said Heather Wong, the Bellevue Fire Department Public Information Officer. 

BFD said bystanders took their boat out to the plane and pulled people from the plane and started CPR. BFD added that one of the good Samaritans knew the man who died in the crash. One neighbor said she saw the CPR being performed for about 20 minutes on the man who died.

“I heard the airplane taking off and I heard strange sputtering and disconnected sound. I didn’t think anything of it because we have floatplanes landing here and take off all the time and I’ve never seen anything actually happen,” said Matt Vasey.

Vasey lives on the lake said his neighbor called to tell him about the seaplane crash. He looked up and saw the crash and immediately jumped into action.

“Anyone would have done that I think. We saw three-quarters of a mile offshore and nobody was going to help them,” Vasey said. “I jumped in my boat and raced across the lake and when I got there one other boater there had one of the passengers on his boat on the swing step and he looked quite injured."

Vasey said the plane was inverted and sinking and got word that someone was still on board.

“I jumped in the water and went down and felt in the cockpit that there was somebody in there but I couldn’t pull them out. So I got deeper in the water in the cockpit and unbelted the seat belt and pulled him out of the cockpit and got him up on the bottom of the wing and started CPR on the bottom of the wing,” Vasey said.

Vasey said life-saving measures were performed on the man the entire time until medics got there.

"They started CPR, I think, out on the boat in the lake and then they continued the CPR as they brought the boat back in and got them back to the dock," said Janelle Shuey, who saw the aftermath of the crash. 

Shuey said that planes take off from the lake daily, but that she had never seen a crash. She said she is devastated by the crash, but is thankful that her neighbors stepped up to help.

"We have a firefighter that lives on our lane, and he was one of the first ones over there," said Shuey.

Bellevue Fire PIO Heather Wong told KING 5 that the bystanders who helped save the victims took heroic actions in the eyes of the department.

"They're heroes in our mind, honest heroes," said Wong. "With their willingness to jump in, in somebody else's time of need, that cannot go unrecognized." 

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB is in charge of the investigation and will provide further updates.

The FAA confirmed the plane is a single-engine Seawind 3000.

“It's not an ordinary type certificated aircraft like you see most of the aircraft flying around. These are sometimes referred to as kit planes or homebuilt planes as well, that's what this type of aircraft is,” said aviation attorney Jimmy Anderson, with Krutch Lindell Bingham Jones.

Anderson represents families in last year’s deadly seaplane crash off Whidbey Island and said what’s crucial for the investigation is preserving the scene.

“The NTSB is going to be really interested in making sure that if their electronics, especially anything that has any data logging capability, that they preserve that so that they can extract the data from it for future use,” Anderson said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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