Small plane crashes on Katmai bear viewing trip; passengers escape

Michelle Theriault Boots
Area of Kamishak Bay plane crash

A small plane carrying a pilot and five passengers crashed on takeoff from a remote beach in Katmai National Park and Preserve on Sunday night and ended up in the surf, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

All six people onboard escaped without injury, Clint Johnson of the NTSB's Anchorage office said. The carrier, K Bay Air of Homer, says no one even got wet.

The plane, a wheel-equipped Cessna 206, was taking off from Kamishak Bay sometime between 5 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday when it crashed, said Johnson.

"They did get airborne," he said. "What happened from the time they got airborne to the time they ended up in the surf we don't know."

Damage to the plane was "substantial," Johnson said.

K Bay Air provided a written statement that one of their aircraft "experienced an incident during takeoff" Sunday but downplayed the crash.

The passengers and pilot got out through the rear door of the plane, the company said in an e-mail.

The passengers were given food, water and blankets while they waited for another Homer company to pick them up by floatplane, the company said. They landed in Homer three hours after their scheduled arrival, the company said.

K Bay Air describes itself as offering "guided wilderness bear viewing" with 20 years of experience flying the Katmai coast.

Johnson said he knew of no other incidents involving the carrier.

It's not yet known what caused the crash. There were no known mechanical issues, and weather wasn't a factor, a K Bay Air spokesperson said. The company says it is cooperating with the NTSB investigation.

In July a plane flying to a Lake Clark bear-viewing lodge crashed on takeoff at Soldotna Municipal Airport, killing the 10 people onboard in the worst Alaska aviation accident in more than a decade.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.