Aviation

NTSB: Floatplane crashed into shore on takeoff south of Iliamna

The pilot of a floatplane that crashed on departure from a lake south of Iliamna last week told investigators the aircraft never became airborne during a full takeoff run.

According to the National Park Service, the de Havilland Beaver floatplane carrying seven people crashed on takeoff from Crosswinds Lake, about 40 miles south of Iliamna in Katmai National Park and Preserve, at about 4:30 p.m. Aug. 8. The pilot and three passengers were injured.

The Park Service identified the pilot as 65-year-old Amos Harari of Wichita Falls, Texas. Passengers included:

• Thomas McPherson, 78, of Oakton, Virginia
• William McPherson, 72, of Palm Harbor, Florida
• Robert Chaney, 69, of Centerville, Ohio
• John "Mitch" Chaney, 67, of Downingtown, Pennsylvania
• Douglas McQuilliams, 50, of Sultan, Washington
• Christopher Gong, 28, of Naknek

Harari and Chaney were taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage; Harari was no longer at the hospital by Wednesday, and Chaney was listed in fair condition.

A preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report on the crash released this week includes details from Harari, who spoke briefly with an NTSB investigator by phone the day after the crash. The plane, operated by the Rapids Camp Lodge in King Salmon, was headed to the lodge when it crashed.

"(Harari) stated that before starting his takeoff run, he back-taxied the airplane to the far north/northeast end of the lake in an attempt to use the full length of the lake for takeoff," investigators wrote. "He said that during his takeoff run, the airplane did not become airborne before reaching the lake's south/southwest shoreline, and the airplane floats subsequently collided with an area of rising terrain on the shoreline."

Jason Lux, the park's acting chief ranger, said the first responders — a pair of park rangers traveling along Funnel Creek — reached the plane about 20 minutes after it went down.

"They happened to be rafting on the river when it occurred, and so they hiked from the shore of the river to the crash," Lux said.

The rangers reported weather in the area included high clouds, good visibility and winds at 35 mph.

Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead, the Alaska National Guard's director of public affairs, said three of the four injured reported varying degrees of back pain, and the fourth suffered a concussion. The guard responded to the crash, picking up the injured and transferring some to Anchorage for treatment.

Rapids Camp Lodge owner Deneki Outdoors did not answer repeated requests for comment on the crash.

Chris Klint

Chris Klint is a former ADN reporter who covered breaking news.

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