Retired Alaska State Trooper Colonel Randy Crawford is pictured in Soldotna in 1992. He crashed a Cessna 207 into Cook Inlet on Tuesday morning.
Clarion File Photo
Retired Alaska State Trooper Commander Randy Crawford, the pilot whose plane crashed into Cook Inlet on Tuesday, is regarded by many as being “a superb pilot who’s been flying a long, long time.”
“We passed each other all the time,” said fellow pilot, Kenai Police Lt. Kim Wannamaker.
“We’d run into each other stopping for fuel or we’d meet at some remote site.
“He’d say, ‘I’m heading over there,’ and I’d say, ‘I’ll meet you there,’ and we’d fly off together,” Wannamaker said.
“Randy has a cabin on a small lake south of Tustumena Lake and sometimes we’d fly there,” he said.
“As far as pilots go, Randy’s superb. He’s a professional and he’s always ready to share his knowledge with me ... with anybody,” Wannamaker said.
State trooper public information officer Greg Wilkinson said Crawford “loved Soldotna,” where he was first assigned in 1976, after graduating from the trooper training academy in Sitka, and later served as commander of the Trooper E Detachment headquartered in Soldotna.
Crawford left Soldotna in 1998 after being promoted to major, and two years later, became director of the state troopers following Col. Glenn Godfrey’s appointment as Commissioner of Public Safety.
Wilkinson, who worked with Crawford for three years in Anchorage, said, “He’s the kind of guy ... you always knew where you stood.
“If he was happy with you, you knew it. If he wasn’t, you knew it too,” Wilkinson said.
“To know him on the inside ... he made you feel real special,” he said.
Kenai Police Chief Chuck Kopp has worked with Crawford the entire 18 years Kopp has been a police officer in Kenai.
“Randy was a phenomenal drug investigator,” Kopp said. “He specialized in drug intelligence.
“He was committed to serving the best he could every day,” said Kopp, who worked on a number of Kenai Peninsula cases with Crawford.
“In police work, the bottom line is catching bad guys,” said Kopp. “He was so enthusiastic about catching bad guys, he was fun to work with. He loved his job.”
Kopp also said Crawford was skilled at getting people to work together, and was the type of person who was not concerned about getting credit for getting the job done.
“He was the finest example of an Alaska State Trooper,” Kopp said.
Crawford also managed to get the most out of youngsters he coached in the Pop Warner Football.
“He certainly made stronger people out of a lot of young football players,” said Mark Fowler, also a Pop Warner Football coach on the Kenai Peninsula.
“I coached with Randy for three years. Last year he coached the Soldotna Saints Mighty Mites to the state championship,” Fowler said.
Fowler had been involved with Pop Warner Football about seven years when he heard Crawford had some experience coaching.
Crawford’s nephew was playing for Fowler at the time, and Fowler learned Crawford had coached Pop Warner football in the 1970s.
“He was one of those guys who didn’t have to do it,” Fowler said. “He understood the game of football and felt strongly about giving back.”
Last year, Crawford came up with the idea of a football clinic for young people and, according to Fowler, organized the three-day event at Mountain View Elementary School in Kenai.
“He was always willing to step up and give,” he said.
“The kids called him ‘Coach Skittles.’ He always had a pocket full of Skittles for the kids,” Fowler said.
“Imagine, rough, tough Randy being called “Coach Skittles.’”
Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek @peninsulaclarion.com.
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