Robin R. Starrett, 01-05-08

Stefan F. Basargin

Pavel F. Basargin

Zahary F. Martushev

Iosif F. Martushev

Andrian Reutov

Four survive icy plunge near Kodiak
Chartered Piper had just taken off from airport

  By KYLE HOPKINS and JAMES HALPIN, Daily News reporters |

Published: January 6th, 2008

A small plane that tried to turn back to the Kodiak airport just minutes after taking off for a short flight to Homer nose-dived into the harbor off the end of the runway Saturday afternoon, killing six people and injuring four, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board.

Dean Andrew, a pilot in another aircraft who had been taxiing nearby, arrived in his floatplane just after the crash. He saw two people standing waist deep in water on the sunken fuselage and two others in the water nearby. He pulled all four aboard his plane.

"Once I got them in they were really cold, and they were just pretty hysterical because they had told me that their family's in that plane," Andrew said.

Nine passengers and one pilot were on the Piper PA-31 Navajo Chieftain, operated by Servant Air, when it went into the water at 1:48 p.m. about 50 yards offshore, said NTSB investigator Clint Johnson.

Troopers identified the six people killed in the crash as: Pilot Robin R. Starrett, 50, Stefan F. Basargin, 36, Pavel F. Basargin, 30, Zahary F. Martushev, 25, Iosif F. Martushev, 15, and Andrian Reutov, 22.

Starrett lived in Kodiak, while the passengers are from Homer.

Acquaintances described the passengers as Russian Old Believers who fish in Kodiak and were headed to Homer on a charter flight to celebrate Russian Christmas -- which is Monday.

Randy Creamer is principal of the roughly 90-student Kachemak Selo school, which is near Homer and in one of three Old Believer villages in the area. Word of the crash quickly spread through the communities. Three of the passengers are former students, he said.

"It's going to be extremely tragic for this time of year," Creamer said. "That's a lot of people for a small area like this. There's a tremendous amount of families affected."

Five people died at the scene, and five were initially brought to Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center, said Providence spokesman John Callahan. One of them died while being treated there, and two were medevacked to Anchorage for further treatment, said Johnson, the NTSB investigator.

Of the two still in Kodiak, one was in good condition and one had been treated and released, Callahan said.

As of late Saturday, troopers had not released the names of the passengers who survived the crash.

Ted Panamarioff served as a spokesman for Servant Air on Saturday. He said the pilot, Starrett, was a former Coast Guard helicopter pilot.

"Very humble, very caring. Very detail oriented," Panamarioff said. "Very precise in the way he did things. He was an excellent family man. Excellent co-worker."

The chartered aircraft had taken off from the Kodiak airport just minutes before the crash and may have been experiencing mechanical problems that forced it to return, Johnson said.

Andrew, who owns Andrew Airways, a small air service, heard what was happening from his Beaver floatplane.

"While I was warming up and back taxiing, I heard Servant Air's Navajo taking off, and shortly after he took off, he said, 'I need to return to the airport.' "

"I know the pilot, and I could tell by the tone of this voice that it was probably something serious," Andrew said.

Andrew said he flew to the site of the crash and initially saw two people in the water. He brought them aboard and then picked up the two passengers standing on the fuselage.

Andrew could see the plane underwater, but no movement, as the Coast Guard approached. One passenger he took into his plane was bleeding badly from a head wound, he said.

"The wind was blowing so hard I was having to use power to maneuver the plane to keep the airplane over the fuselage. Then at that point the Coast Guard was really close to getting there."

A Coast Guard helicopter recovered another passenger, said chief petty officer Barry Lane. The downed double-engine 1979 plane was still being extricated from the water about 100 yards from runway 36 as an NTSB investigation got under way, said Johnson, who spoke while he was on his way to the scene.

The aircraft was in relatively shallow water and became visible later in the afternoon, when the tide went out, Kodiak harbormaster Marty Owen said. He wouldn't discuss the condition of the aircraft but said it was in "bad shape."

The Coast Guard reported clear skies and 20-knot winds at the time of the crash.

Panamarioff, the Servant Air spokesman, said charter flights to Homer are a routine trip for the company.

The crash is tragic, he said.

"We're a very small and a very close knit company, and everybody is very close friends, both professionally and personally," he said. "This was our first accident, and it's been very, very hard ... we're family."

Reach Kyle Hopkins at or 257-4334. Reach James Halpin at or 257-4589.

Crash survivor says cargo door flew open

NOSE BAGGAGE COMPARTMENT: It happened right before the crash that killed six people in Kodiak.

By RACHEL D'ORO, The Associated Press

Published: January 7th, 2008

The door to a nose baggage compartment popped open just before a charter plane carrying Russian Orthodox Old Believers crashed into shallow water off Kodiak, one of four survivors told crash investigators Sunday.

Six people were killed in Saturday's crash of the twin-engine Piper PA-31 Navajo Chieftain.

Among them were the pilot and five Old Believers who had been fishing in Kodiak and were flying to Homer to celebrate Eastern Orthodox Christmas, which is today.

Before he boarded another plane bound for Homer on Sunday, passenger Karnely Ivanov told the National Transportation Safety Board the baggage door on the nose of the small plane opened just after takeoff.

"The pilot made a right turn, the door went to full open at that time, and the airplane descended into the water," NTSB investigator Clint Johnson said.

The investigation is continuing, Johnson said. An engineer from Piper was expected to arrive Sunday .

"We want to look at the aerodynamic qualities of opening a very large door in flight," Johnson said. "This does not signal an end of our investigation of the crash by any means."

Johnson said it appeared the four survivors -- Ivanov, 32, of Anchor Point; Feodot Basargin, 33, of Anchorage; Anton Rijkoff, 30, of Anchorage; and Andrean Basargin, 25, of Homer -- were seated in the tail of the nine-passenger plane.

Killed were pilot Robin Starrett, 50, of Kodiak and five passengers from the Homer area: Stefan F. Basargin, 36; Pavel F. Basargin, 30; Zahary F. Martushev, 25; Iosif F. Martushev, 15; and Andrian Reutov, 22.

Ivanov caught a plane Sunday afternoon to Homer, and another survivor took a commercial flight to Homer on Saturday night, Johnson said.

The other two survivors were flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, where one -- Feodot Basargin -- remained hospitalized in fair condition Sunday, said John Callahan, spokesman for Providence Health and Services Alaska.

Iosif "Joe" Martushev was a ninth-grader at Kachemak Selo school, and Reutov and Zahary Martushev were former students there, said Randy Creamer, the school's principal.

The small school sits near Homer on the Kenai Peninsula in one of three Old Believer villages in the area.

Creamer described Iosif as an artistic student who loved to make sketches of moose, snowmobiles and fishing boats. Zahary Martushev was married and had several children, and Reutov got married recently, Creamer said.

The school planned to have extra staff on hand to counsel students when classes resume Wednesday, Creamer said.

"This being such a small place, it's hitting people really hard," he said.

The wreckage from the chartered flight, operated by Kodiak-based Servant Air, was recovered Sunday, Johnson said. The plane crashed about 50 feet off the runway. Dean Andrew, piloting a floatplane that had been taxiing nearby, pulled the four survivors aboard.

One of the men was bleeding profusely from a head wound, and all of them were hysterical, saying that family members were in the submerged plane, Andrew said.

"Once I got the four in, I could see down into the fuselage, but I couldn't see any signs of life," Andrew said. "I had an emotional time. I thought about diving in, but I had to keep the plane running to hold it steady against the wind."

Andrew said he heard Starrett on his plane's radio saying he needed to return to the airport. Andrew said he could tell by his voice that something serious was going on.

"I decided to stay put in case I was needed," Andrew said. "I had a feeling something would happen."

Daily News reporter Beth Bragg contributed to this story.

Improper luggage door latch led to '08 plane crash
KODIAK: Door opened, sending airplane on a dive into the ocean.


Published: February 17th, 2009

An improperly installed thumb latch on a luggage panel and a missing latch guard appear to have allowed the door to swing open as a chartered airplane left Kodiak last year, sending the plane on a dive into the frigid sea below and killing six people, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report released this week.

The nine-passenger twin-engine airplane -- operated by Servant Air -- went down Jan. 5, 2008, minutes after take-off and shortly after the compartment door on the nose just forward of the pilot swung open, despite the pilot apparently inspecting the craft before departing.

"We don't know exactly how this thing came open," NTSB accident investigator Clint Johnson said. "Fact of the matter is it did come open and the end result, obviously, was the loss of control and subsequent stall."

The NTSB's factual report released Monday determined the key latch system that was certified for the airplane had been removed and replaced with a thumb latch that didn't lock, Johnson said. Also, the guard on the inside of the door that keeps luggage or debris from entering into the latching mechanism was missing, he said.

Investigators initially thought it might have come off in the crash, but an examination of the debris of the Piper PA-31 Navajo Chieftain revealed the screws -- and most likely the guard itself -- were not in place when the flight took off, Johnson said.

Officials from Servant Air did not return a phone message left Tuesday.

The chartered flight was flying from Kodiak to Homer, where the plane's passengers -- many of them Old Believers involved in Kodiak commercial fishing -- planned to celebrate Russian Orthodox Christmas.

Killed in the crash were pilot Robin Starrett, 50, of Kodiak; Stefan F. Basargin, 36; Pavel F. Basargin, 30; Zahary F. Martushev, 25; Iosif F. Martushev, 15; and Andrian Reutov, 22. All were from the Homer area.

Four people survived the crash. They are Karnely Ivanov, 32, of Anchor Point; Feodot Basargin, 33, of Anchorage; Anton Rijkoff, 30, of Anchorage; and Andrean Basargin, 25, of Homer.

As a result of the crash and subsequent investigation, Piper in July issued a mandatory service bulletin requiring a key-lock device that allows the key to be removed only after the door is closed and locked, Johnson said.

Similar panels swinging open have caused six other crashes on Piper aircraft since 1977 -- including three in Alaska, according to the NTSB. The Alaska crashes all involved Piper PA-31s and took place at Lake Minchumina in 1977, Deadhorse in 1990 and Point Hope in 1996. A total of five people were injured in the three crashes.

The "common denominator" in pilots losing control when the panels come loose has been airplanes having a high gross weight during take-off, Johnson said.

"That's a very vulnerable time," he said. "The airplane is slow, and there's just not a lot of room for error."

Find James Halpin online at or call him at 257-4589.