Robert James Gilmore, 06-29-08

Pilot trying to land dies in crash

OUTDOORS DEATHS: A rafter and an ATV rider were also killed in accidents this weekend.

By BETH BRAGG,, Published: June 30th, 2008

A deadly weekend claimed another victim Sunday when a pilot returning from a brief pleasure flight in the Valley crashed into trees surrounding a private airstrip off Trunk Road and was killed.

Robert James Gilmore of Wasilla was attempting to land when a gust of wind knocked him off course, said Clint Johnson of the National Transportation Safety Board.

His female passenger was treated and released at the Mat-Su Medical Center, Johnson said.

"The wind was blowing at the time, and right before touchdown -- he was about 15 feet off the ground -- a gust hit (the plane) from the left and pushed it to the right," Johnson said, citing the accounts of two witnesses. "The pilot tried to do a go-around and get to full power, but a wing struck a tree and the plane descended nose first into the trees," Johnson said.

Gilmore was the third person to die in the outdoors of Southcentral Alaska over the weekend -- one on a plane, one on a boat and one on an ATV.

David Yanoshek, 56, of Anchorage, was tossed from a raft Saturday while on a boating trip on the Kenai River. He is presumed dead, Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said Sunday after the second day of searching ended with no sign of Yanoshek.

"The situation doesn't look good," Peters said. "He's presumed drowned."

The raft tipped two miles upriver from Skilak Lake, near Jim's Landing, officials said.

"He was not wearing a life jacket, and from what it sounds like, he was wearing hip waders," Peters said.

A second passenger in the boat was wearing a life jacket and was able to safely reach the shore. Rescuers spent four and a half hours searching for Yanoshek on Saturday night and continued their efforts Sunday.

Also on Saturday, 56-year-old Craig Wayne of Talkeetna was killed when he and his all-terrain vehicle slid down an incline into Birch Creek. The ATV landed on top of Wayne in the water, troopers said. Troopers and medics reached the scene in a chartered jet boat.

Sunday's plane crash came at the end of a flight that lasted only about 20 minutes, Johnson said.

Gilmore and his passenger were out for only a brief flight, Johnson said. The passenger had been a bridesmaid at a wedding involving friends of Gilmore's the previous day.

"It was a quick jaunt around Palmer-Wasilla to look for wildlife, a 20-minute flight at the most," Johnson said.

Gilmore was flying a Piper PA-18 Super Cub. He was attempting to land on a grass airstrip about 1,300 feet long and surrounded by 50-foot trees, Johnson said.