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Pilot killed in Big Lake plane crash; passenger seriously injured

Alaska Dispatch News

An early-morning plane crash near the Big Lake airport Sunday killed the pilot, a longtime Anchorage attorney, and seriously injured his passenger.

A single-engine Piper Comanche piloted by Christopher Cyphers, 50, crashed when the plane “experienced some type of engine problem” while taking off, according to an initial online dispatch from the Alaska State Troopers.

"Cyphers attempted to perform an emergency landing at the Big Lake Airport but struck trees which caused him to crash land onto a roadway near the airport," troopers said.

Troopers were notified of the crash just before 2:30 a.m. Sunday, the dispatch said.

Cyphers was killed in the crash. The passenger, whose name had not been released by troopers as of Sunday evening, was taken to an Anchorage hospital with “life-threatening” injuries, troopers said.

On Sunday, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said they were not yet sure what brought the plane down -- or whether it was landing or taking off.

“We don’t know factually if this airplane was arriving or departing,” said Clint Johnson, the head of the Anchorage NTSB office. “We’re getting some conflicting stories.”

A witness who saw the “last part of the accident,” according to Johnson, reported the possibility that an in-flight engine fire may have contributed.

NTSB investigator Brice Banning spent Sunday at the crash site combing through wreckage, Johnson said.

Christopher Cyphers was the managing partner of the Frontier Law Group, a law and mediation firm with offices in Anchorage.

Anchorage attorney Jim Gottstein was a longtime friend of Cyphers.  

“He first set out for Alaska when he was a young boy, running away from home, and finally made it 30 years later,” Gottstein said in an email Sunday.

“Just a month ago I was talking to him and he said that he didn't worry about dying flying because he has lived his dream since coming to Alaska,” he wrote.

Contact Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com.