Four dead in Alaska plane crash

Posted: Monday, July 15, 2002

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Recovery crews were working Monday to retrieve the bodies of four men killed Friday in plane crash in southwestern Alaska.

Alaska Air National Guard Maj. Mike Haller said a Civil Air Patrol plane spotted the aircraft Sunday evening. The wreckage was found near Lake Clark Pass in the Chigmit Mountains, about 120 miles west of Anchorage.

The single-engine deHavilland Beaver, operated by Big Foot Air, had been reported overdue Friday on a flight from Lake Hood in Anchorage to Iliamna Lake, where the three passengers were planning to fish.

The passengers were identified as Melvin Daniel, 79, of Renton, Wash; Daniel Maret, 70, of Black Diamond, Wash; Harold ''Ted'' Marney, 65, Renton, Wash. The pilot was identified as Matt Hipkiss, 35, who lived in Anchorage during the summer and Florence, Ore. during the rest of the year.

The National Guard helicopter that landed at the crash site Sunday found the wings and tail had separated from the fuselage and there was evidence of fire, said Alaska State Trooper spokesman Tim DeSpain. The plane crashed in hilly tundra at an elevation of about 2,500 feet, he said.

The cause of the crash is not yet known.

The passengers were from the Kent Senior Activity Center in Kent, Wash., a suburb south of Seattle, and were part of a nine-member group in two planes headed for the Rainbow Point Lodge, said John Hodgson, director of the Kent parks department. The other plane made it to the lodge safely.

Dave Hines, Big Foot's operations director, said Hipkiss began working for the company in May and previously worked for other Alaska aviation companies.

The weather was good, with scattered clouds and visibility of 10 miles or more when Hipkiss took off, Hines said. Hipkiss filed a flight plan. The last contact with the plane was shortly after it took off from Lake Hood.

''He said he would see us on the next trip,'' Hines said.

The Beaver, built in 1956, passed a routine maintenance inspection July 5, Hines said.

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center directed the search, which included a dozen civilian planes and an Air National Guard HC-130, Haller said.

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