Two South Carolina families, hoping to spot a bear on a vacation in the Alaska wilderness, were killed on Sunday when their air taxi crashed on a single, paved 5,000-foot runway next to the Kenai River.
The dead included a family of five and a family of four, both from Greenville, according to family friends and law enforcement sources. The pilot, Walter Rediske, from Nikiski, was also killed in the crash.
Rediske was scheduled to take guests to a Lake Clark bear viewing lodge on Sunday, the owner of the lodge said.
Milton Antonakos, his wife, Kimberly, and their three children - Olivia, Anna and Mills - were on the plane, according to state Rep. Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, who was the Antonakos' neighbor.
Dr. Chris McManus, his wife, Stacey, and their two children - Connor and Meghan - were also on the plane, according to law enforcement sources and family friends.
"I just can't believe it," Bannister said. "They were on the plane, on a family vacation, and they are not coming back."
Bannister, an attorney, said he met Milton Antonakos several years ago when he represented him in a legal matter. He described a loving family that took care of each other and their neighbors.
"Anna is in my son's class and got basically every award you can get at the fifth-grade awards day," Bannister said. "Mills, the boy, every morning would go out and get (his neighbor's) newspaper and take it to his porch so he didn't have to walk out on the driveway.
Bannister said Milton Antonakos was "one of those people that would just spend any amount of time that he needed to with his kids," while Kimberly was always volunteering at her children's schools. Bannister said several of the children were on a local swim team.
"They were just an absolutely fabulous family," he said.
The McManus family made Marshall Johnson and his family feel welcome when they recently moved into their Greenville neighborhood.
"They were very easy going," said Johnson, whose wife once taught Connor McManus at Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville. "They were beautiful."
Connor McManus was working with his father, a radiologist, to earn the Boy Scouts' highest honor, Eagle Scout, Johnson said. Meghan McManus was looking at colleges with her family. Stacey McManus was a board member of the Episcopal Church Women group at Christ Church Episcopal.
"They did a lot of things as a family, outdoor activities and traveling" Johnson said. "They enjoyed being together."
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038. Reach Shain at (803) 771-8619.
By ANDREW SHAIN and ADAM BEAM