Search yields no clue of bodies in air crash

Posted: Wednesday, August 27, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Searchers have found no sign of two people on board a small plane that crashed in the Arctic Ocean Aug. 17.

Anchorage-based Hageland Aviation Services, owner of the twin-engine Cessna 406, plans to use special equipment to try to recover the wreckage and the bodies of pilot Shima Funakoshi and her mother, Yoshiko Funakoshi.

The plane was on a daily mail run from Barrow to Wainwright when it went down 10 miles offshore.

''We know there's no chance of survivors,'' said Lt. Jonathan Owen of the North Slope Borough Police Department. ''It's a search-and-recovery effort purely at this point.''

Hageland is contracting to have experienced divers and special side-scan sonar brought up from the Lower 48 so the wreckage can be located, according to Hugh Youngers, the company's director of operations.

''We don't know exactly 100 percent where it is, but we know the general area,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News. Other divers have failed to find the wreckage.

Shima Funakoshi, 31, lived in Anchorage and had been flying for Hageland for about three years before taking a leave of absence last year, Youngers said. She returned to fly for Hageland this year.

Funakoshi flew the 80-mile mail-and-cargo run from Barrow to Wainwright as well as other Hageland routes.

Her 58-year-old mother arrived in Anchorage from Japan on Aug. 1 for a visit with her daughter, said Dora Wainwright, Funakoshi's roommate.

Yoshiko Funakoshi wanted to see where her daughter worked, so she was taken on the mail hop as a nonpaying passenger.

A Frontier Air pilot, who spoke to Shima Funakoshi on the radio shortly before the crash, spotted an oil slick and some debris in the waters of Peard Bay, 35 miles southwest of Barrow and 49 miles northeast of Wainwright, according to Owen.

Youngers said winds and rough seas have made the search difficult, and the new equipment, expected to arrive sometime this week, will improve chances of finding the plane.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

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