Authorities are currently investigating two fatal plane crashes that occurred in the state of Alaska in recent days. The first crash happened on April 8, just south of Juneau. The second, an Anchorage plane crash, was just reported today.
Four People Killed in Anchorage Plane Crash
A Cessna 172 plane crashed shortly after taking off from an Anchorage airport on Wednesday morning, killing all four people onboard. Authorities have indicated that the small plane went down at around 9:05 a.m. local time in a heavily wooded area along the dog mushing trails of the Beach Lake Recreation Area.
An area resident told KTVA that the plane sounded like it ran out of gas or experienced engine trouble prior to the crash. Deborah Schaffer, who lives near Beach Lake, said she could hear the plane getting louder and louder as it dropped toward the ground. She actually said to herself that the plane was getting really low before it suddenly made a sputtering sound and crashed.
Schaffer, who was in her house at the time, put on her shoes and ran outside to find black smoke rising. “That’s when I called it in.”
Emergency responders arrived at the scene about 10 minutes after the crash was reported to find the Cessna 172 completely engulfed in flames. Firefighters were able to get the blaze under control within about 15 minutes, but there was little left of the plane. The debris field created by the Anchorage plane crash was roughly 100 yards wide, according to local authorities.
The bodies of the deceased were extricated from the wreckage at around 1:30 p.m. The victims of the Anchorage plane crash have since been identified as 64-year-old pilot George Kobelnyk; 20-year-old co-pilot Christian Bohrer; 27-year-old passenger Kyle Braun; and 36-year-old passenger Sarah Glaves.
News reports have indicated that the Cessna 172 was heading out for a survey project in the area of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson when the crash occurred. Braun and Graves both reportedly worked as surveyors for a company called TerraSond.
A veteran aviator, Mr. Kobelnyk served as the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) Alaska Region Chief before working as a senior manager for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The current NTSB Alaska Region Chief, Clint Johnson, said Mr. Kobelynk was a good investigator and a champion for aviation safety.
According to the FAA database, Mr. Bohrer held a commercial pilot certificate issued last year, as well as a flight instructor certificate.
At this time, investigators are uncertain what caused the Anchorage plane crash. NTSB officials have cleared the wreckage from the crash site, moving what was left of the Cessna 172 to a secure location. Representatives from Cessna Aircraft Company and Lycoming Engines will also be participating in the investigation. Typically in these types of crashes, the NTSB will come out with a preliminary report about a week or so after the incident, with a full investigative report issued after roughly a year.
Three Dead, One Survivor in Plane Crash Outside of Juneau
On April 8, a Cessna 206 crashed in steep terrain on Admiralty Island outside of Juneau, killing the pilot and two passengers. A third passenger miraculously clung to life and was rescued by a search team in the wake of the crash.
Authorities were called at around 10:22 a.m. on Friday morning when the plane was reported overdue and the Coast Guard picked up an alert from the plane’s emergency beacon. A Coast Guard helicopter was able to locate the Cessna 206, but couldn’t land near the crash site due to turbulent winds. Members of Sitka Mountain Rescue were dropped roughly 600 yards below the scene and hiked up steep, snowy terrain to the downed plane.
To everyone’s astonishment, they found 21-year-old Morgan Enright of Ketchikan still alive in the wreckage. She was quickly evacuated from the scene in critical condition. Enright was eventually airlifted to a hospital in Seattle where, days later, she was still listed in critical condition. Her mother, Chere Klein, has been providing updates on her daughter via CareBridge.
According to KFSK, Friday’s crash killed 60-year-old pilot David Galla, and passengers Greg Scheff, 61, and Thomas Siekawitch, 57. All three were from Wrangell.
The NTSB investigation will focus on “man, machine and environment,” according to lead investigator Shaun Williams. By man, Williams means the actions of the pilot during flight as well as his training history. Machine refers to the aircraft itself, as officials will look for any possible malfunctions. Investigators will also pour over the plane’s maintenance history for clues. As for environment, the NTSB will be looking at weather conditions in the area at the time of the crash, as well as air traffic in the area.
Cessna Aircraft Company and Hartzell Propeller, the plane’s propeller manufacturer, will also be participating in the investigation, which will likely take about a year to complete.
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