Pilots killed in crash near Fairbanks identified as fuel service owner and former attorney

The Alaska State Troopers this week identified the pilots killed in the crash last month of a cargo plane loaded with fuel as 68-year-old Anchorage resident John Sliwinski and 63-year-old Harry Secoy of Palmer.

The identification was made by the Alaska State Medical Examiner’s Office, troopers said in an update Thursday.

Sliwinski was the owner of Alaska Air Fuel, a Wasilla-based company operating the plane that supplied numerous remote communities with fuel deliveries. He was remembered at a memorial service last month as a passionate aviator, family man and active member of the Anchorage Grace Church community.

Secoy worked as an attorney in Washington state for about two decades, according to the Everett Herald. He was a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot who spent his last years working in Alaska as a DC-4 pilot, according to his obituary.

The plane crashed moments after taking off from Fairbanks International Airport the morning of April 23 carrying about 3,400 gallons of unleaded fuel and two 100-gallon propane tanks for a 300-mile flight to the Northwest Alaska village of Kobuk, according to a preliminary federal report. Troopers said the DC-4 crashed into the Tanana River about 7 miles southwest of the airport, then slid into a bluff and was consumed by flames.

Investigators say one of the men reported an in-flight fire shortly after departure and requested a return to the Fairbanks airport just before the crash. A witness described hearing an explosion and seeing one of the plane’s four engines on fire.

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to issue a probable cause report next year.