Before the seaplane crashed into the Deschutes River on June 22, the pilot struggled to gain altitude from the Sunriver Airport and feared he would not safely clear 50-foot-tall trees near the airport, according to a preliminary report into the fatal accident.

As pilot Kevin Padrick, 63, of Sunriver, banked the plane left toward the river for an emergency landing, he told his passenger: “Oh, this looks bad.”

The plane flipped upside down in the river and floated downstream about 300 feet, according to the National Transportation Safety Board report.

Padrick was killed in the crash. His passenger, Johannes Noordwijk, 69, of Sunriver, was able to escape the aircraft and suffered minor injuries.

Noordwijk told safety board investigators the purpose of the flight was to see how the Maule M-7-235B performed with two people on board. He said the takeoff was normal with the plane reaching 65 knots with 1,000 feet of the 5,400-foot runway remaining, the report stated.

But the plane was slow to gain altitude, and it was apparent they would not clear the trees across the river, Noorwijk told investigators.

Noordwijk was unaware the river was Padrick’s intended forced landing site until seconds before they touched down in the water, according to the report.

Four bystanders jumped into the river to try to help the plane’s occupants. Sunriver Fire and Rescue personnel helped the bystanders and Noordwijk to shore. Padrick’s body was later recovered by Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue divers.

Friends remembered Padrick as a talented pilot who flew stunt planes, gliders and seaplanes. He was a former attorney in Portland and co-founded Obsidian Finance Group, a financial advisory and investment firm in Lake Oswego. He lived in Sunriver for the past 20 years and worked remotely for the finance group.

The seaplane was removed from the river June 27 and is being kept in a secured facility in Dallas, Oregon, for further investigation, according to the NTSB.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820,