Three survive Merrill Field crash

Posted: Monday, November 11, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Three people and a dog survived after their small plane crashed just after takeoff Saturday afternoon from Merrill Field.

The Cessna 172 plunged past power lines into trees a stone's throw from a homeless camp.

The pilot and a female passenger suffered only minor injuries and an infant was not hurt. A husky also was not hurt.

The names of the people on board were not available.

''You're very lucky!'' a woman onlooker yelled to the small, stunned group as rescuers walked with them out of the trees.

The pilot, bleeding from a gash on his forehead, didn't respond. A woman walked behind him. Another man carried the baby, snug in fleece and apparently uninjured.

''He's fine,'' the woman yelled to a small group of onlookers, most of them residents of a nearby subdivision.

Two witnesses fueling a plane at Merrill saw the plane use the length of runway 15 to get airborne before it appeared to lose power and slip off into the trees, said Anchorage police officer John Goetz.

''It's very good he didn't come down on a subdivision,'' Goetz said.

Instead, the Cessna slammed into a clump of alders near a homeless camp strung with laundry. Firefighters put out a campfire there to make sure any escaping fuel didn't ignite.

The Fire Department reported a broken power pole to Municipal Light & Power, said Gary Fife, an ML&P spokesman. Fife was unsure whether the plane hit the pole or hit lines and dragged the pole down.

The pilot called 911 from the crash site, said Ron McGee, spokesman for the Anchorage Police Department.

The plane is registered to Steven E. Bonde of Anchorage, state records show.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.

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