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Inland Aviation owner dies in Alaska plane crash

Ben Anderson
Matt Keller photo

The Alaska State Troopers report that 61-year-old Stephen Hill, co-owner of the Aniak-based air carrier Inland Aviation, was killed in a plane crash Tuesday evening on a flight from Aniak to Chuathbaluk.

Troopers said that Hill was the only occupant of an Inland Aviation Cessna 207 that left Aniak around 7:05 p.m. Tuesday. He was on his way to pick up a passenger in Chuathbaluk about 10 miles west but never landed. Witnesses in Chuathbaluk reported that lights on the runway there were illuminated, but a snow squall that would have prevented a landing moved in at about the same time. Residents then reported hearing a plane stall, but couldn't pinpoint the location, troopers said.

Search teams from Aniak and Chuathbaluk, along with troopers, went to look for the aircraft around 9:15 p.m., and discovered it around 1:45 a.m. Wednesday. Troopers said that the plane was located "approximately 3 miles southwest of Chuathbaluk in a heavily forested area," adding that the plane was a total loss and that Hill appeared to have died on impact.

This is the second fatal crash for Inland aviation this year, following a crash near McGrath in August that killed pilot Ernie Chase and schoolteacher Julia Walker. A family of four survived the crash, and the father of that family, Don Evans, hit the "911" button on an emergency transmitter located in the plane. Stephen Hill -- who had left McGrath at the same time as the crashed plane -- was one of the people who received that 911 alert in the form of a text message to his cell phone.

Troopers requested an autopsy in the most recent crash, and National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have been notified and were heading to Aniak to investigate.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com