James Andie 2011-09-23

1 dead, 2 injured in Kodiak-area plane crash, troopers say
Plane crash survivor says wing hit tree before impact

By CASEY GROVE and KYLE HOPKINS, Anchorage Daily News, September 24th, 2011

One person is dead and two injured after a de Havilland Otter crashed Friday night near Kodiak, Alaska State Troopers said.

Survivor Gary Alexanderoff, 18, said one of the floatplane's wings struck a tree and moments later the aircraft hit the ground and flipped over, he said.

The Otter was headed to Kodiak from the nearby village of Old Harbor when it crashed at 7:55 p.m., about six miles south of the city, according to reports by troopers and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Pilot James Andie, 49, was killed, troopers said. The plane carried two passengers -- Alexanderoff and Arthur May, 24 -- according to a troopers spokeswoman.

Alexanderoff told the Daily News he had just finished fishing for salmon out of Old Harbor and was headed to Kodiak on Friday to cash his paycheck and buy a four-wheeler.

After the crash, Alexanderoff spotted a hole in the fuselage behind his seat. He climbed through it to get out of the plane, he said.

"I tried to yell at the other guys and they didn't answer," Alexanderoff said. "I didn't think they made it, because when I got outside the plane, it looked all mangled."

Alexanderoff hiked about 100 feet up a hill to where he had cellphone reception. He could see Kodiak and, a few minutes later, a helicopter in the air. An ambulance and firetruck waited on a nearby road, he said.

Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said troopers, U.S. Coast Guard personnel and a private citizen helped get May out of the plane. A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter hoisted May and Alexanderoff to safety at 8:11 p.m., the Coast Guard reported. The pair was flown to the Kodiak air station and met by emergency medical crews, who transported them to Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center for treatment, according to the Coast Guard.

Rescuers pronounced Andie, a Kodiak resident, dead at the scene. His body was recovered Saturday, Peters said.

Alexanderoff said he had a bump and a scratch on his head and was released from the hospital after getting checked out Friday. May suffered leg injuries, troopers said.

The FAA described the injuries as serious.

The flight was a charter operated by Paklook Air Inc., an office manager for the company said. Troopers identified the plane's operator as Servant Air.

Andie had flown the plane to Old Harbor earlier Friday, dropping off passengers and freight before the return flight to Kodiak, said Paklook office manager Terry Cratty. The sky was clear with calm winds.

"One rare, pretty day for Kodiak," Cratty said.

The DHC-3 Otter went down near Heitman Lake, near Mile 14 of the Chiniak Highway, troopers said. Larry Lewis, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, described the terrain at the crash site as rolling hills and tundra.

It's too early to say what caused the crash, Lewis said.

Andie was an experienced pilot familiar with the Otter he was flying and had worked for Paklook Air about nine months, Cratty said.

"Jim Andie was loved by everybody, a very nice man," Cratty said.

The floatplane, tail number N361TT, was substantially damaged in the crash, according to the FAA.