Bill Rose, 08-05-99
April Relyea


Anchorage Daily News
Saturday, August 07, 1999

By Jon Little, Daily News Peninsula Bureau
Illustrated By Ron Engstrom

Soldotna ---Both occupants of a rented Cessna 180 floatplane were killed when the plane crashed Thursday on a steep mountainside at the narrow eastern entrance of Lake Clark Pass, Alaska State Troopers said.

Troopers identified the pilot as Bill Rose, vice chancellor of administrative services at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The name of his female passenger was not released Friday night because relatives had not been notified, saidbtrooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson.

Rose was hired by the university system in February 1997 after a nationwide search. He was 42.

The plane apparently clipped the tops of trees at the 1,400-foot level and then nosedived for 400 feet, Wilkinson said.

Troopers retrieved the bodies Friday after negotiating difficult terrain.

"The problem is the Cessna is on some type of steep, rocky incline and it's very unstable," Wilkinson said.

After low clouds and rain delayed the trip from Kenai Municipal Airport, a helicopter ferried two troopers to a location 300 yards downhill from the crash site.

The troopers jumped out and climbed up the 60-degree slope, crossing under a glacial waterfall. They arrived at the site at 1 p.m., Wilkinson said.

Troopers had to cut open the plane to remove the bodies, he said. They were returned to Kenai by 6p.m.

The plane, rented from Opportunity Flying Club on Lake Hood, crashed about 2:30 p.m. Thursday, troopers said.

Search aircraft from the Rescue Coordination Center, based at Fort Richardson, took off an hour later and homed in on the Cessna's emergency locator beacon by 7:40 p.m. at the mouth of the pass, a place known to pilots as "the narrows."

A Rescue Coordination Center helicopter managed Thursday night to lower two searchers who confirmed that two people had been killed in the crash. But the searchers said the wreckage was too precarious to attempt anything more, Wilkinson said.

Pilots describe the narrows as a steep, rocky gap in the wall of mountains rising 5,000 to 7,000 feet on the east side of Cook Inlet.

"You've got glaciers coming down. You've got a big river running out of there. There's a lot of trees in there," said Dave Wilder, a pilot for Lake and Peninsula Air in Port Alsworth. "But it's narrow. When you get in there in poor weather, trying to turn around can be very difficult, even in a small airplane."

He said it's the trickiest part of an otherwise straightforward 70-mile corridor through the Alaska Range, linking Southcentral and Western Alaska. Pilots flying out of Anchorage and Kenai regularly fly through the corridor to reach places such as Lake Clark, King Salmon or Dillingham.

The route is safer than alternatives like Merrill and Rainy Pass, he said. "But at the same time, it's terribly unforgiving," Wilder said. "There's a lot of low weather we deal with on a regular basis."

Wilder said he's flown the route countless times since 1969.

He was in the air when the rescue helicopter arrived and heard a faint emergency signal. At the time, the clouds were 1,000 feet above Lake Clark Pass and pilots flying below that layer could see four or five miles, "which is acceptable and it's safe if you know the pass really well."

The pass has claimed many planes and pilots over the years, he said.