Two dead in crash of kit plane near Wasilla
By MEGAN HOLLAND and RINDI WHITE
Anchorage Daily News, Published: July 14th, 2009
The pilot and passenger of a small, home-built airplane are dead after it crashed
Tuesday morning and went up in flames just west of Wasilla.
The bodies were so badly burned that official identification may take awhile and
depend on dental records, Alaska State Troopers said. Initial investigation says
one of the dead was Robert Whitesell, 63, of Mustang, Okla., troopers said.
The two who died were the only people on board, according to the Federal Aviation
The kit plane went down about half a mile off Mile 46 of the Parks Highway around
10 a.m. in Meadow Lakes, officials said.
Alaska State Trooper Lt. Patrick Davis said witnesses reported that the plane, which
is on floats, took off from nearby Kalmbach Lake. Davis said witnesses reported
that the engine sounded normal , but they reported hearing an explosion moments
after takeoff, followed by the crash.
The plane was a CH 701 STOL kit plane, according to Alaska State Troopers. STOL,
which stands for short take-off and landings, is a popular light sport aircraft
made by Zenith Air that can take off in "less than 120 feet of unprepared grass,
or 90 feet of hard surface," according to the company's Web site.
Davis confirmed that the plane's registered owner has a residence on Kalmbach Lake,
but refused to confirm whether the registered owner piloted the plane until the
family in California was notified.
The plane landed on a gated road that connects private properties on Kalmbach Lake
to a gravel airstrip and, eventually, to the Parks Highway. National Safety Transportation
Board investigator Larry Lewis said skid marks show the plane appeared to touch
down about 20 feet before it came to a stop on the Kalmbach Lake Trail.
Davis said it was unclear where the plane was headed.
Lewis said Alaska has seen fewer airplane fatalities this year than in typical years.
The last airplane fatality that happened in the Valley is believed to be a single-engine
Beechcraft plane that left Wolf Lake Airport June 21 with plans to fly to Whitehorse,
Yukon Territory. Pilot Gary Petigler of California and a passenger never arrived
at their destination and Lewis said his office suspects the plane crashed.