July 7, 2013 is a day that not only locals but also family members of loved ones lost across the country will likely remember for years to come.
On that Sunday, late in the morning at the Soldotna Municipal Airport, a charter plane crash took 10 lives — nine passengers and one pilot.
“We have had crashes in the past, but is certainly a tragic one,” Kyle Kornelis, airport manager, said.
Rediske Air, Inc., of Nikiski, which has satellite offices in Soldotna and Anchorage, owned the 1958 De Havilland DHC-3. Pilot and company owner Walter “Willie” Rediske was killed in the crash. The passenger victims were two families — four adults and five children total — from Greenville, S.C.
Both wings were broken off of the plane, the propellers were bent and most of the fuselage had burned away as a result of the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board collected evidence from the site to investigate the crash, which no one witnessed and there is no surveillance footage of.
NTSB spokesperson Eric Weiss said it could take up to a year to complete the investigation.
“This is a major investigation,” Weiss said. “And we’re carefully and thoroughly going through all the evidence.”
Kornelis said a video system for the runway to document flights has not been discussed.
According to an Associated Press article, at a July 9 Anchorage press conference, NTSB member Earl Weener said the plane crashed and burned during takeoff and landed more than 2,300 feet from the departure point and 88 feet to the right of the runway.
While no one saw the summer crash, the first of great magnitude in the airport’s history, Kornelis has been a witness to the community’s support for those affected by the accident.
“I’ve just kind of witnessed the outpouring of support from the aviation community and really peninsula-wide not just the Soldotna airport,” he said. “I’ve found the aviation community is all really supportive of each other.”