ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The pilot of a small commuter plane died Tuesday in a crash northeast of Haines.
Alaska State Troopers said Joel Mathis, 39, of Skagway, was the only person on board when the Piper PA-32 Cherokee Six operated by Skagway Air Service went down in mountainous terrain.
The single-engine plane left Skagway at 8:12 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane was reported overdue at 9:17 a.m.
Searchers in a Temsco helicopter spotted the wreckage at 10:50 a.m. on the side of Mount Villard about four miles from Haines, according to Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Michele Schallip. The point of impact was 300 feet above the water line.
A Coast Guard helicopter later arrived but was unable to lower anyone to the site because of the steep mountainous terrain and dense forest, Schallip said.
The National Transportation Safety Board was notified and is investigating the cause of the crash, Schallip said.
Skagway Air manager Mike O'Daniel said Mathis was heading to Haines to pick up two passengers who wanted to go to Juneau. The small carrier offers passenger and cargo service between the three cities, said O'Daniel, whose family owns the company.
''We aren't sure what happened,'' he said the crash.
O'Daniel said Mathis had worked for the company for two years and grew up in Albuquerque, N.M. ''He was a really great guy,'' he said.
A Skagway search-and-rescue team reached the crash site at 1:30 p.m., said troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson. The weather in the area was overcast, with snow pellets and fog.
Because of continuing bad weather and poor visibility, searchers had to call off recovery efforts. But searchers confirmed that the sole person on board was dead, Wilkinson said.
Recovery crews were planning to return to the site Wednesday morning if conditions allowed.
Once the body is recovered, it will be flown to Anchorage for an autopsy, Wilkinson said.
Peninsula Clarion ©2013. All Rights Reserved.