Preliminary report on Rainy Pass crash cites turbulence, flat light

Casey Grove

A small plane that crashed last week near Rainy Pass, killing its three occupants, hit mountainous terrain in heavy turbulence and flat light, according to a preliminary report released Friday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The crash killed the single-engine Cessna 182's pilot, Ted Smith, 59; Carolyn Sorvoja, 48; and her daughter, Rosemarie Sorvoja, 10, a family spokesman said. The Sorvojas were heading to Takotna to volunteer at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race checkpoint.

The plane took off from Merrill Field in Anchorage about 10 a.m. March 4 and a concerned family member reported it overdue about 4 p.m. when it did not arrive in Takotna, the NTSB report says. Alaska Air National Guard rescuers in a helicopter found the wreckage the next day. A week later, an NTSB investigator examined the plane, which was at 4,386 feet on "steep, mountainous, snow-covered terrain," the report says.

In an interview with the NTSB, another pilot who had flown through Rainy Pass said cloud ceilings were at about 4,400 feet, and there had been "severe turbulence" and flat-light conditions, the report says.

The NTSB is expected to follow up with a determination of what caused the crash.

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.

Preliminary NTSB report on fatal March 4 crash