Coast Guard finds wreckage of plane missing near Sitka

Posted: Sunday, July 06, 2003

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) The wreckage of a twin-engine airplane that crashed while attempting to land at the Sitka airport was found by a Coast Guard helicopter Friday.

Five people aboard the plane, en route from Colorado Springs, Colo., to Anchorage, were killed in the crash, the Coast Guard said.

The victims are identified as Michael Baker and his wife, Cathy; Richard and Catherine Lohman and Richard Mohnsen, all of Colorado Springs. The ages of the victims were not available Friday.

A Coast Guard search had been underway since about 5:30 p.m. Thursday when air controllers lost contact with the Cessna 421 as it was making an unscheduled stop in Sitka.

Baker, who was piloting the airplane, told controllers he was experiencing a problem with an exterior cargo door and was going to examine it there, said Coast Guard spokesman Roger Wetherell. The plane had taken off from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, earlier in the day.

Controllers lost contact with the airplane as it descended to 4,000 feet just east of Sitka, said Mike Fergus, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Sitka is located on the shore of Baranof Island about 600 miles southeast of Anchorage. The area is surrounded by rugged mountains in the Tongass National Forest and, like the rest of Southeast Alaska, often shrouded in rain, fog and low clouds.

Visibility was low at the time of the crash, Wetherell said, with dense and patchy fog in the area along with rain.

The wreckage was finally found at about 12:30 p.m. Friday in a densely wooded area about 2.5 miles northeast of the airport near Old Sitka. It was located about 200 yards from Harbor Mountain Road, Wetherell said.

The crash is being investigated by the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board, Fergus said.

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