Alaskan and visitor from Texas identified as 2 who died in Kodiak Island air taxi crash

Alaska State Troopers on Friday identified the two people killed in a July 2 plane crash on Kodiak Island as Kodiak resident Rodney Murdock, 73, and Texas resident Byron Chitwood, 91.

Murdock started Alpha Appliance Repair on Mill Bay Road in Kodiak in 2013, according to state business records. City Mayor Pat Branson told the Kodiak Daily Mirror that plans for a celebration-of-life ceremony for Murdock are underway.

Chitwood previously served as mayor and as a city council member in the town of Greenville, Texas, the Herald-Banner newspaper reported.

Three others on board were seriously injured when the Piper PA-32-300 operated by Vertigo Air Taxi crashed in shallow, mountainous terrain about 3 miles north of Old Harbor.

The passengers were heading from the Kodiak Sportsman’s Lodge in Old Harbor back to Kodiak when the crash occurred that afternoon, according to Clint Johnson, the chief of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska office. The Coast Guard responded the the crash by helicopter and flew the injured survivors to the Kodiak Airport, and from there, they were taken to medical facilities for treatment.

Old Harbor, on the southeast coast of Kodiak Island, is located about 70 miles southwest of the city of Kodiak.

Authorities haven’t publicly identified the other individuals involved, aside from Murdock and Chitwood. But the Herald-Banner reported that Chitwood’s two sons were also seriously injured in the air taxi crash, which occurred as they were returning from a fishing trip, and Chitwood’s granddaughter told the newspaper that they remained in the hospital as of Thursday.


Murdock and Chitwood’s bodies were recovered Monday from the site of the remote crash, whose cause wasn’t immediately clear. Johnson, with the NTSB, has said that authorities are working to coordinate retrieval of the aircraft wreckage as weather allows. The plane had broken into multiple pieces, according to Johnson.

He said this week that an NTSB investigator had reached the site — accessible only by helicopter — and completed an on-scene investigation.