Plane crash tragedy brings hero to light


Posted: Friday, January 12, 2007

Tuesday started out like any normal day in the newsroom. Reporters filed in, checking their e-mails, returning calls and generating story ideas for Wednesday’s paper.

That normalcy changed shortly after 10:30 when a call came across the police scanner.

“Alert 3, alert 3,” was the cry from a Kenai police dispatcher. An alert 3 means a plane crash has occurred.

As we listened to every detail given in the initial call, it was an incredible process of communication between several agencies. The call first sent Kenai Fire and Police personnel scrambling to the airport. Then it quickly became clear that the plane went down in the inlet.

Immediately, Nikiski Fire, Alaska State Troopers, the U.S. Coast Guard, Air National Guard and an oil company pitched in with everything they could to get people in a position to help. Unfortunately, a thick fog bank and bone-chilling temperatures made it near impossible to search for the plane.

As time went on, more details emerged. Among them was the identification of the pilot: Randy Crawford. Randy is a well-known figure on the Kenai Peninsula. His years with the Alaska State Troopers made him popular with the good guys and not so popular with the bad guys.

“In police work, the bottom line is catching bad guys,” said Kenai Police Chief Chuck Kopp. “He was so enthusiastic about catching bad guys, he was fun to work with. He loved his job.”

And it showed. Randy started his relationship with the area in 1976 when he was assigned to Soldotna fresh out of the academy in Sitka. He later was promoted to commander, then moved on to become a major and finally director of the state troopers.

Retiring didn’t slow Randy down. In February of 2004 he worked as head of project security for KBR, a subsidiary of Haliburton, in Iraq, overseeing the Iraqis who provide security for reconstruction efforts. He spent 16 months there.

Back on the peninsula, he jumped into action with Pop Warner Football, taking on a coaching spot and leading the Soldotna Saints Mighty Mites to the state championship.

“He was one of those guys who didn’t have to do it. He understood the game of football and felt strongly about giving back,” said Mark Fowler, also a Pop Warner Football coach on the peninsula.

Many people know him. He is respected, liked and admired — and not just here on the peninsula, but across the state.

“He’s the kind of guy ... you always knew where you stood,” said Greg Wilkinson, trooper public information officer. The two worked together for three years in Anchorage.

“If he was happy with you, you knew it. If he wasn’t, you knew it, too.

“To know him on the inside ... he made you feel real special,” he said.

We commend the agencies involved in the search for working together so well and so quickly. Given the conditions, time was of the essence. In situations where the clock is ticking, it’s crucial to keep the lines of communication open and maintain an immediate response. From our point of view, that, indeed, did happen.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, the Coast Guard had suspended the search for Randy, but troopers were planning to continue as weather permits. He’s no stranger to danger and dangerous situations, and he has a reputation for being one tough guy. Perhaps that’s what makes it so hard to believe he would leave us without a fight.

No one knows that better than his wife, Michelle.

On July 21, 2004, the Clarion printed a note she received from Iraq. It read:

“Our great love and respect to Mr. Randy and especially Mrs. Randy, ‘the courageous.’ We are all wish to be so, so proud of your father and all the Americans here or there in Iraq; ‘those great men’ who did their efforts in reconstruction of Iraq and before that in the operation of the liberation of Iraq and we’ll never forget what have you done for us forever.

“God bless you. God bless America. God bless our beloved Mr. President Bush.

Your faithful friends, Firas, Rana, Ban and Rasha”

To Michelle and your family, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

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