NTSB: Pilot of Alaska plane changed course to avoid clouds

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The pilot of a commuter plane that crashed in southeast Alaska had said he was going to take an alternate route due to cloudy weather before the plane went down, according to a preliminary accident report.

The report from the National Transportation Safety Board on the April 8 crash that left three men dead, including the pilot, 60-year-old David Galla, was released Thursday.

The passengers killed in the accident on Admiralty Island were Greg Scheff, 61, and Thomas Siekawitch, 57. The only survivor, 21-year-old Morgan Enright, remained in critical condition at a Seattle hospital on Thursday.

According to the NTSB report, Sunrise Aviation’s director of operations Tyler Robinson said he had been communicating with Galla via radio while Galla was piloting the Cessna 206.

“(Galla) commented to (Robinson) that while en route to Angoon, he was unable to make it through Pybus Bay due to low clouds and reduced visibility, and that he was going to try an alternate route that had a lower terrain elevation,” the report states.

About 15 to 20 minutes after speaking to Galla, Robinson said he noticed that the Cessna’s signal was stationary in a mountain region.

“(Robinson) then called personnel at the Angoon airport and was told the flight had not arrived, and attempts to contact (Galla) on his cell phone and aircraft radio were unsuccessful,” the report stated.

Robinson then received a call from the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center notifying him that the Cessna’s emergency locator beacon had activated.

The airplane had sustained substantial damage after crashing into snow-covered, rising terrain about 20 miles from Angoon on Admiralty Island, according to the report.

High winds prevented rescue helicopters from landing at the crash site. A Coast Guard helicopter crew was able to lower members of a Sitka rescue team to a location near the site, and they then hiked up to reach the wreckage.


Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com

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