Witnesses describe floatplane nosediving before deadly Crescent Lake crash, NTSB report says

A report released Wednesday by the National Transportation Safety Board describes a floatplane nosediving in the moments before a deadly crash in Crescent Lake last month on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.

The crash killed U.S. Air Force Col. Mark “Tyson” Sletten, 46, and Utah flight instructor Paul Kondrat, 41.

The men left Moose Pass around 12:45 p.m. June 18 in a Piper PA-18 on a training flight, the NTSB report said. Kondrat, an instructor for Alaska Float Ratings, was in the rear seat of the plane, with Sletten in the front seat.

The men planned to fly to Bench Lake, north of Moose Pass, and return no later than 2:30 p.m., the report said.

Witnesses at Crescent Lake described watching the Piper do several touch-and-go landings near the middle of the lake around 2 p.m. that day before pitching downward from about 400 feet above the water during an approach, the report said. The plane had a slight counterclockwise rotation, and one witness said it pitched up slightly before it hit the water and sank, the report said.

When the plane hadn’t arrived back in Moose Pass by 2:30 p.m., the operator began searching for it and found wreckage on Crescent Lake, the report said.

The Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Air National Guard and several volunteers responded to the lake to search for the plane. They used a remotely operated vehicle to search underwater and located the wreckage nearly 200 feet down on June 19, the report said. It was recovered and moved to shore on June 20.


The wreckage has since been brought to a Mat-Su hangar, where NTSB investigators will examine it along with representatives from the plane and engine manufacturers to determine if there were any mechanical issues that might have caused the crash, said Clint Johnson, chief of the NTSB’s Alaska Office.

The NTSB’s investigation into the cause of the crash will likely take about a year, Johnson said.

Sletten was director of operations at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson since 2021 and was assigned to the Alaskan Command, according to a spokeswoman for the base. In the position, Sletten oversaw homeland defense, civil support and security within the Alaska Theater of Operations, she said.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.