After more than a year of investigation, the National Transporation Safety Board released the details of its investigation into a July 2013 plane crash that killed 10 people, including Nikiski pilot Willy Rediske.
While the NTSB hasn’t released its official finding of cause for the accident, several hundred pages of documents, including photos and descriptions of passenger cellphone video documenting the crash — have been released to the public. A final report will be issued by the NTSB at a future date.
The single-engine De Havilland Otter, Registered to Rediske Air Inc., of Nikiski, had nine passengers and one pilot aboard when it crashed late on a Sunday morning — killing all aboard. While there were no witnesses who saw the crash, the NTSB report contains interviews with witnesses who described the engine as having a high-pitched whine and one who said he saw black smoke coming from the plane’s exhaust plane as it took off.
One witness, Janet Pope, said she heard a loud explosion after the plane took off and saw the airplane engufled in flames. Pope called 911 and tried to get to the airplane, but was unable to do so because of the heat, according to her testimony.
Three videos were recovered from cell phones belonging to victims of the crash. One video, at just over 3 minutes long, shows the craft taxiing down the runway, lifting into the air and crashing about 15 seconds later then catching fire about a minute later, according to the report. The cell phone video does not record any abnormal engine sounds, according to the report.
The plane was rated to carry a maximum of 8,000 pounds and the NTSB estimated the flight’s weight to be somewhere between 6,020 pounds to about 8,040 pounds, according to its weight study.
However, the report clarifies that the actual weight and balance of the airplane during the flight could not be accurately determined due to limited factual data, including the destruction of much of the cargo in the post-crash fire. Six scenarios were included in the report, each generating different weights and in half of those scenarios, the plane would have been overweight.
In addition to the passengers and their gear, the plane was also carrying at least 300 pounds of cargo for the lodge, though the NTSB investigator found that estimate to be too low, according to the report.
The flight was destined for the Bear Mountain Lodge and included two families from Greenville, South Carolina including Melet and Kim Antonakos and their children Olivia, Mills and Ana, and Chris and Stacey McManus and their children, Meghan and Connor.
On the day of the flight, the families had been scheduled to fly to the lodge on two of Rediske Air’s smaller planes, however a flight with the Otter had been canceled and Willy Rediske, president of the small aviation company, decided to use the plane to transport the group together, according to the report.
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.