Don Lucarelli 9/2/96 Peters Creek Valley Flying Crash
Robert Fisher 9/2/96 Peters Creek Valley Flying Crash
Dawn Rossit 9/2/96 Peters Creek Valley Flying Crash

Short Flight Turns Deadly For 3 Friends
By Rachel D'oro, ADN 9/4/96

He was going on a quick sheep-scouting flight, Don Lucarelli told his wife before setting out Monday afternoon with two experienced pilots in a Cessna 172. Just before he left, he promised to get up early the next day for their son's first day in high school.

She never saw him again.

''He said he wouldn't be gone long, just a couple of hours. But he never came home,'' Sandy Lucarelli said Tuesday at the couple's South Anchorage home.

Hours before, the bodies of her husband and his two companions were recovered near the downed single-engine plane in Peters Creek Valley, about 12 miles east of Eagle River.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash. It's unclear when or why the plane went down in clear weather, killing all three people on board, said NTSB field chief Jim La Belle. The victims were identified as Lucarelli, 48, a retired Los Angeles city firefighter; Robert Fisher, 41; and Dawn Rossit, 35, the owner and pilot of the Cessna. The three, all of Anchorage, apparently were ejected from the plane, said Ken Waugh, a spokesman with the Alaska State Troopers. Searchers spotted the plane from the air about 2:15 a.m. Tuesday. Rescuers on the ground found the bodies a half hour later, Waugh said.

The pilot's seat was ejected and Rossit was probably killed on impact, trooper Sgt. Chuck Feller said. The two passengers apparently died later. Rossit's body was found closest to the plane. Another victim was found 100 feet from the site, and the third was located at the bottom of a 100-foot cliff, at least 1,500 feet from the crash site, Feller said. He speculated the man must have walked from the site and fallen from the cliff in the dark, he said.

Relatives of Fisher and Rossit could not be reached for comment. But a FedEx captain, Roger Cumin, said Fisher was a FedEx pilot. Rossit was an air traffic controller at Anchorage International Airport. Cumin said Lucarelli was his friend for at least 20 years, since they were neighbors in San Clemente, Calif.

Sandy Lucarelli said she began to worry when her husband didn't return late Monday night. She called authorities shortly before 11 p.m., reporting that her husband's party was long overdue, according to Waugh.

The Lucarelli family moved to Alaska from California two years ago, Sandy Lucarelli said. Bad knees forced Don Lucarelli to retire early as a firefighter, but he stayed busy remodeling homes, as well as hunting with guns and bows.

''He was a great husband and father. He did everything for us,'' she said. ''I don't know what we're going to do without him.''


NTSB Database information  09/02/96
A/C Type: Cessna 172
N-Number: N8739B

Preliminary Report
On September 2, 1996, about 1730 Alaska daylight time, a wheel equipped Cessna 172, N8739B, collided with terrain about 9 miles east of Eagle River, Alaska. The airplane was being operated as a visual flight rules (VFR) local area personal flight when the accident occurred. The airplane, registered to the first pilot, was destroyed. The first pilot and second pilot, both certificated airline transport pilots, and the passenger received fatal injuries. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed. A VFR flight plan was filed by the first pilot. The flight originated at the Anchorage International airport, Anchorage, Alaska, at 1635. The airplane was reported overdue at 2035. Search personnel indicated that the passenger was planning to go sheep hunting and the purpose of the flight was to scout the Chugach Mountains for sheep. The area of the passenger's hunting permit narrowed the area of the search and the wreckage was located on September 3, 1996, at 0215. The wreckage was located about 4,400 feet mean sea level on steep mountainous terrain.

Probable Cause Report
Two certificated airline transport pilots and a passenger planned an aerial scouting flight, looking for sheep in mountainous terrain. After departure, the flight did not return and the airplane was located crashed into the side of a steep box canyon. All of the occupants were located outside of, and downslope from the wreckage, having egressed from the wreckage through the left door. The manner and circumstances of their egress was not determined. No mechanical malfunction of the engine or airframe were found.

Probable Cause
The first pilot's failure to maintain sufficient distance/altitude from terrain. A box canyon and mountainous terrain are factors in the accident.