Pilot survives Willow Lake crash with minor injuries

A private pilot who crashed his float plane Sunday afternoon trying to take off from Willow Lake only suffered minor injuries, Alaska State Troopers said. The wrecked plane was leaking fuel in the lake after the crash, troopers said.

Stephen Long, 63, told authorities he had just taken off in his 1981 Taylorcraft F21 when the plane started to stall because of a lack of wing speed -- he wasn't going fast enough to gain altitude, troopers said.

Long, who lives in Anchorage, tried to turn around to avoid hitting trees and clipped his right wing on the water, partially sheering it near the frame, troopers said.

Numerous witnesses called 911 starting at 4:17 p.m.

Some people who heard the crash -- but didn't see it -- jumped in their pontoon boat and zipped across the lake to the damaged plane.

By then, Long was sitting on one of the floats. The rescuers took him in their pontoon boat to the Willow Community Center, where an ambulance was waiting. Troopers said he was suffering back pain and had a gash on his chin.

Someone driving another pontoon boat tried to tow the plane to shore until one of the floats caught on the lake bottom. The float had a leak and took on water, partially sinking the plane.

The plane remained upright and is now sitting about 20 feet to 30 feet off shore on the southwest side of the lake, troopers said. The state Department of Environmental Conservation was alerted about the fuel leak and began arrangements for a hazardous materials response, troopers said. The National Transportation Safety Board also was notified.

Daily News staff