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Sole survivor of PenAir flight dies

Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2001

DILLINGHAM (AP) -- The only survivor of Wednesday's PenAir crash near Dillingham has died, bringing the death toll to 10.

Maryann Christensen of Port Heiden died at Alaska Native Medical Center Thursday night, a hospital spokeswoman said. Christensen, 49, had worked as a personal care attendant for the Bristol Bay Native Association and was escorting patient Lena Matson, 73, home to Port Heiden.

Four on the Cessna 208 Caravan were board members of the Native association. Two others beside Christensen were association employees.

The plane was bound for King Salmon when it crashed shortly after takeoff from the Dillingham airport.

People across much of Western Alaska struggled to cope with the loss of friends and relatives aboard the flight. And investigators said there is no immediate indication of what caused the plane to suddenly dive into the tundra.

''This is going to affect the whole Bristol Bay region,'' James Kosbruk of Dillingham told the Anchorage Daily News. ''My emotions are all mixed up. . . . It's like somebody took something from inside of you and you can't find it.''

Kosbruk, who said he knew everyone aboard the Cessna 208, works as a housekeeper at the Bristol Inn and as a taxi driver. He had seen nearly all the victims the morning of the crash. Most were here for a Native association board meeting Monday and Tuesday and had stayed at the inn.

''These were the people we had just said goodbye to at the hotel,'' he said.

An eight-member team from National Transportation Safety Board headquarters in Washington, D.C., will investigate the crash.

Clint Johnson, an NTSB field investigator based in Anchorage, arrived Wednesday afternoon to secure the scene and take a preliminary look at the wreckage. Johnson said the Washington team is sent to crashes involving major fatalities.

Johnson said it will likely take six months or more to determine the cause of the crash.

The plane did not have a cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder.

Teresita Tanaka, who works at the post office, said Wednesday's crash, combined with the four jets hijacked in the terrorist attacks on the East Coast last month, has raised her anxiety about flying.

''I'm going to stay on the ground for now,'' she said.



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