Former trooper killed in plane crash near Eureka

zhollander@adn.comSeptember 6, 2013 

A former Alaska State Trooper was killed Thursday night when his 1952 Cessna 170 crashed northwest of Eureka, troopers said.

Michael S. Zobel, 41, of Anchorage died in the crash, troopers said. The cause wasn't immediately clear. Zobel, a private pilot, was alone in the plane.

A friend of Zobel's in a nearby hunting party witnessed the crash, which was reported at 7:54 p.m. Thursday, troopers said. LifeMed Alaska responded and confirmed Zobel's death due to injuries sustained in the crash, troopers said.

Zobel went up to look for a moose that had been shot, according to troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters. He was part of the hunting party that watched the crash, Peters said.

When bad weather blocked efforts to recover his body, members of the hunting party stayed at the scene and Thursday afternoon got permission from the State Medical Examiners Office to move it from the remote location for transport to Anchorage, troopers said.

Zobel started with the troopers as a recruit out of Sitka in 2002, according to troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters. He worked at the Palmer and Northway posts and left the troopers in 2006.

Zobel leaves behind a wife and a school-age son, a friend of the family said.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator was en route to the crash site Friday morning, which the NTSB's Clint Johnson described as 21 miles north of Eureka Lodge.

Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com or 257-4317.


  FAA: 28 have died in Alaska plane crashes so far in 2013

This year marks the deadliest for plane crashes in Alaska since at least 2008, according to federal statistics.

Comparing fiscal years, which run from October 1 to Sept. 30, the Federal Aviation Administration says this is the largest number of aircraft fatalities since 2003.

All told, 28 people have died in plane crashes in Alaska people so far this calendar year, according to FAA statistics. That's more fatalities than occurred in an entire year for at least the last five years.

Twenty-four people died in plane crashes in 2008, according to the FAA.

Five men died in plane crashes in the last month alone. Aviation investigators haven't released the cause of any of the recent accidents.

Most recently, Anchorage pilot and former Alaska State Trooper Mike Zobel died in the crash of his Cessna 170 Thursday near Eureka, troopers said.

Zobel's death comes a week after Scott Mueller, a 52-year-old Big Lake pilot was killed when his Piper P-18 Supercub crashed near the Tatitna landing strip in Rainy Pass on Aug. 30. Just a day earlier, two Palmer men - brothers-in-law Adam Norton and Derrik Swanson - died in the crash of Norton's American Champion Citabria while they scouted for moose north of Sutton.

On Aug. 24, Robert Lilly and Jessi Nelsen died in a crash at Merrill Field after flight controllers instructed pilot Lilly to make another pass at landing because an aircraft remained on the runway ahead of him.

Ten people died in July when an air taxi to a bear-viewing lodge crashed at Soldotna Municipal Airport.