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Pilot dead after crash near Kachemak Bay

Posted: Sunday, July 13, 2003

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) A pilot died late Friday morning after his single engine aircraft crashed near Kachemak Bay.

Stephen Finley, 49, of Hopewell, N.J., was flying a Cessna 206 when it crashed into English Bay at about 11 a.m., Alaska State Troopers said.

The plane was operated by Homer-based Smokey Bay air taxi service. Finley was the only person aboard the aircraft.

Victor Vodila, 22, of Florida, witnessed the crash. He was in Nanwalek fishing for the summer.

Vodila was dipnetting with his fishing companion when he saw the aircraft trying to land.

The plane bounced on the runway until it hit the middle of the landing strip, Vodila said. Finley then aborted the landing, taking off again.

Vodila saw the plane turn right to miss nearby cliffs. A crosswind then pushed the plane onto its side.

The plane went wing down into the bay and the aircraft flipped over, Vodila said.

The aircraft landed about 200 yards off shore from Nanwalek Beach, troopers said.

Vodila rushed to the crash scene, lassoed one of the tires and waited for rescuers to arrive. The plane sank about 25 to 35 feet into the water, troopers said.

''We were going to try to drag it, but the line was too weak,'' Vodila said. ''All we could do was sit and wait for help.''

The plane's wing was broken and the engine was gone. The aircraft took about five minutes to sink, Vodila said.

Troopers arrived a few hours later to attach a more secure line to the plane and remove the body. The plane was then towed to shore.

Finley was in Homer working for the summer. Authorities are investigating.

Nanwalek is located at the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula.



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