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One dead in plane crash at Anchorage's Merrill Field

Devin Kelly
Emergency crews respond to the scene of a plane crash at Merrill Field on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News

Pilot Charles Hancock, 61, was killed when his plane crashed at Merrill Field Airport in Anchorage Wednesday morning, authorities said.

The crash was reported at 8:24 a.m.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Cathy Gagne said that Hancock, the sole occupant of the aircraft, was in communication with the Merrill Field tower when the plane apparently crashed during takeoff. Merrill Field is a 436-acre patch of airstrips, taxiways, parked planes and helicopters 1 mile east of downtown Anchorage.

The plane, a 1964 Piper PA-12, had been heading west from runway 7/25, the longest of the airport's three runways, Gagne said.

By late Wednesday afternoon, the NTSB had spoken to witnesses, met with Hancock's family, and moved the plane to a secure facility to begin the investigation into the cause of the crash.

Hancock was the owner and operator of A I C Foam and Coatings, a urethane insulation contractor. 

According to witnesses, the plane was airborne before it crashed nose-down, Gagne said.

On Wednesday morning, emergency vehicles surrounded the overturned plane, covered by a blue tarp, as officials waited for the medical examiner to recover the body from the crash site. The Anchorage Fire Department sent 12 units in response to the crash.

The plane was resting in the grassy median between the runway and a taxiway, visible from Fifth Avenue. The plane was removed around 11 a.m. and the runway was re-opened, according to Merrill Field Manager Paul Bowers.

This is the second fatal plane crash at Merrill Field in a year. In August, a young couple was killed while attempting to land a Cessna 150 on the runway.

Contact Devin Kelly at dkelly@adn.com.