Skip to main Content

Four rescued after floatplane crashes into Cook Inlet

An Alaska State Trooper was able to drop a raft from a helicopter and go find help in time to save the passengers and pilot of a Cessna 185 that crashed into Cook Inlet Sunday night.

All four people on board escaped with no injuries, according to the FAA. The plane hit the water east of Kalgin Island, some 22 miles southwest of Kenai, about 7 p.m. Sunday, the FAA reported.

The passengers and pilot are Valley residents, troopers said.

The pilot, Scott Johannes, 48, of Wasilla, told a National Transportation Safety Board investigator that the engine didn't quit but there wasn't enough power to stay airborne, said Jim LaBelle of the NTSB.

The pilot landed in rough seas.

The floats were reported to have ripped off during landing, LaBelle said.

The pilot called his son for help, using a satellite phone, said troopers. The son called 911.

Alaska State Trooper Shane Stephenson had been flying a small helicopter on commercial fishing patrol over Cook Inlet and had parked for a few minutes on the beach at Clam Gulch when he got word of the crash nearby.

Alone in the helicopter, he flew about 12 miles out to the crash site east of Kalgin Island and saw the passengers and pilot all standing on the tail of the airplane. The rest of it had sunk, Stephenson said.

The downed Cessna "was hanging on by a thread," he said.

Stephenson hovered over the crash scene and with his spare hand shoved a life raft to the stranded people.

"I tried to see if I could go in and pick them up but the water was too rough," said Stephenson. One of the women actually jumped on one of the helicopter's floats but fell off, said Stephenson.

Stephenson was afraid the helicopter might end up in the Inlet and come apart. He backed away and went looking along Kalgin Island, 3.7 miles away, for a skiff that could bring the passengers ashore.

He found people in a fish camp with a commercial-sized skiff and directed the fish campers to take it out to pick up the downed passengers and pilot.

Later, a National Guard helicopter retrieved the passengers and pilot from the fish camp and took them home to the Valley.

Besides the pilot, those on the plane were Karis Johannes, 48, of Wasilla, and Jill Warner, 56, and Douglas Warner, 54, both of Palmer, troopers said.

Reach Rosemary Shinohara at or 257-4340.