One dead, one injured in plane crash near Kotzebue

Posted: Tuesday, August 14, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An Anchorage pilot was killed Monday and his son was critically injured when their plane crashed after striking a radio tower in Kotzebue.

Kotzebue police said John Martin Pursell, 45, died in the 11:20 a.m. crash. Police said they did not know the extent of injuries to the pilot's 13-year-old son, but said he appeared to have a broken leg. The boy, identified as Erik Pursell, was flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition Monday evening.

The two were the only people on board the single-engine Maule M-6, which went down on the outskirts of town soon after takeoff. The private aircraft was registered to Arctic Camps and Equipment in Anchorage.

Kotzebue police investigator Lorin Downing said Pursell and his son were in the area for a hunting and fishing trip and were heading to Deering across Kotzebue Sound.

The weather was rainy and cloudy at the time. Downing said it is unclear how much weather was a factor in the crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board also is investigating the crash near the KOTZ radio transmission tower.

KOTZ station manager John Garoutte was in his office doing paperwork when the radio he was listening to went dead. Garoutte and station engineer Pierre Lonewolf headed over to the transmission site, a few miles south of the station, to investigate.

Garoutte said the plane knocked off about 60 feet of the antenna before crashing on the waterlogged tundra about 200 feet south of the tower.

''The plane was laying on the ground with its wings folded forward and part of the fuselage was open,'' Garoutte said. ''It was just sitting there surrounded by pools of water.''

Lonewolf waded toward the plane through sometimes hip-deep water as Garoutte headed up a hill so he could call for help on his cell phone. A power company worker checking on a nearby windmill farm radioed authorities first so Garoutte headed toward the plane to check for survivors.

The boy was screaming and talking and appeared to be in shock. He might have broken an arm and leg, suffering other injuries, as well, Lonewolf said.

Meanwhile, the station will be off the air for at least two months while the tower is repaired, Lonewolf said.

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