Plane crashes near Iliamna

  • By Rachel D'oro
  • Tuesday, September 15, 2015 11:40am
  • News

The family of one of the three people killed in a floatplane crash in Alaska has released a statement about his death.

Close family friend Meagan Grossman says 70-year-old James P. Fletcher of Clovis, California, was a retired periodontist. She says the family requested the statement be released in its entirety.

They wrote: “Dr. Jim Fletcher was killed in a plane crash this morning while on a fishing trip in Alaska. Jim, a quiet man with an incredibly generous heart, was full of faith in Christ Jesus. His family and his church community are grieving together. A service to celebrate Jim’s life will be scheduled at First Presbyterian Church, Fresno.”

The others killed in Tuesday’s crash near the tiny community of Iliamna were identified as 80-year-old Tony W. Degroot of Hanford, California, and 69-year-old James Specter of Shavertown, Pennsylvania.

The seven others on board the De Havilland DHC-3 Turbine Otter were injured, some of them critically.

The plane was taking off to head to a remote fishing spot in a river when it went down outside the tiny town of Iliamna, 175 miles southwest of Anchorage, National Transportation Safety Board Alaska Chief Clint Johnson said.

The aircraft — a De Havilland DHC-3 Turbine Otter on floats — belonged to an Iliamna fishing lodge. It ended up in some trees near Eastwind Lake, a mile north of town.

The three dead men were staying as clients at the Rainbow King Lodge, which owns the plane, Johnson said. Calls to the business went unanswered.

The Alaska Air National Guard flew five of the more seriously injured survivors to Anchorage. The five were first flown to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, then transported by ambulance to a hospital or hospitals, Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Eagerton said.

Some of the seven injured were critically hurt, while two sustained minor injuries, Johnson said. Their names were not released. Johnson added it was “way too early for any speculation” on what caused the crash. Two NTSB investigators were heading to Iliamna on Tuesday, with one arriving mid-afternoon, he said.

The picturesque Eastwind Lake is fairly small and regularly used for floatplane traffic, said Diana Armstrong, who works at a local trading post.

Tuesday’s crash 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.

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