ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The 10 men came from across the United States for what should have been a thrilling Alaska adventure. Instead, their plans were cut short by tragedy.
Three of the men died and the rest were injured when their floatplane crashed Tuesday as they headed to a remote fishing spot in southwest Alaska.
On Wednesday, family members remembered one of the victims — James P. Fletcher, 70, of Clovis, California — as a faithful Christian who loved fishing and had a heart for serving people.
Meanwhile, the Alaska State Troopers identified the survivors, including the pilot, as men from New York, California, Pennsylvania, Utah and Oregon. The other two men killed were from California and Pennsylvania.
The group of tourists and guides was aboard a De Havilland DHC-3 Turbine Otter.
The aircraft crashed near the tiny town of Iliamna, about 175 miles southwest of Anchorage, as it was taking off to head to a river. It ended up in the tundra among trees near scenic Eastwind Lake, a mile north of town, National Transportation Safety Board Alaska chief Clint Johnson said.
The plane belonged to the Rainbow King Lodge, a fishing lodge in Iliamna. The business said in a statement released late Tuesday it is working with the victims’ families and the NTSB and was deeply saddened by the accident.
Alaska State Troopers identified the pilot as John Furnia, 54, of Covington, New York.
The other survivors were Rodger C. Glaspey, 65, of Fresno, California; Robert J. Dingler, 62, of Fresno, California; David W. Wood, 67, of Westchester, Pennsylvania; Seth J. Hofland, 25, of Bountiful, Utah; Robert R. Westbrook, 23, of Cottage Grove, Oregon; and Justin L. Schillaci, 27, of Greenville, Pennsylvania.
Furnia, Glaspey, Wood and Dingler were listed in good condition at Anchorage hospitals. Westbrook was listed in fair condition. No details were available on the conditions of Hofland and Schillaci. Besides Fletcher, the other two killed were Tony W. Degroot, 80, of Hanford, California; and James Specter, 69, of Shavertown, Pennsylvania.
Fletcher’s family said the retired periodontist is survived by his wife, three children and triplet grandchildren.
“He had a unique ability to make people laugh, usually through one of his practical jokes,” the family said in a statement. “His passion for fishing and building collector cars from scratch were trumped only by his faith in Jesus Christ.”
Meanwhile, Johnson said it’s too early to say what might have caused the crash. NTSB officials are in Iliamna to investigate. They will examine the scene — along with pilot error, mechanical problems and weather — as they search for possible causes.
The wreck was the ninth fatal plane crash in Alaska this year, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Allen Kenitzer said. Altogether, there were 20 deaths among those crashes, he said.