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NTSB says poor visibility played role in crash near Juneau

Casey Grove

Limited visibility likely played a role in a fatal plane crash last month near Juneau, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator said Thursday.

The July 24 crash killed an Anchorage couple: 77-year-old Charles Luck Jr. and his wife, 51-year-old Liping Tang-Luck. Poor weather prevented a helicopter from retrieving their bodies for five days, according to the Alaska State Troopers.

Luck was flying a Cessna 182 from Hoonah to Juneau when the plane slammed into a mountain adjacent to Eaglecrest Ski Area, about five miles from the Juneau airport, NTSB investigator Clint Johnson said.

The airport reported "marginal" visibility -- five miles or less -- due to poor weather at the time, the investigator said.

"We are definitely looking at weather as a contributing factor, but nothing has been ruled out at this point," Johnson said. "The weather in this area, in the pass by the ski area, where the accident happened, is predominantly worse than it is down in the Juneau area."

The couple had flown from Anchorage to Juneau the day before the accident. They refueled, and then continued on to Hoonah, where they spent the night, Johnson said. They were returning to Juneau the next day when the plane crashed about 6:45 a.m.

Alaska Airlines told NTSB investigators that Luck's wife had booked a flight from Juneau to Anchorage that was to depart at 7:30 a.m., Johnson said.

That afternoon, members of the Juneau Mountain Rescue Group tracked an emergency beacon up the mountain and found wreckage at the base of an 800-foot rock face, according to Johnson's preliminary report on the crash.

It wasn't until the next day that searchers, including Johnson, found the victims at about 3,100 feet, he said.

"This was probably one of the toughest climbs I've done in 14 years," Johnson said. "We got everything done that we needed to, but we had a very short time at the accident site."

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.