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Knowles donates money for wrecked plane cleanup

Posted: Sunday, December 01, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- More than five years ago, pilots Frank Moss and James Moore were flying a vintage World War II cargo plane when one of the engines fell off and the plane crash-landed into a gravel bar in the Chandalar River. And there it sat.

Ever since the June 1997 crash, residents of Venetie and Arctic Village have been concerned about the wrecked plane and the possibility of its metal contaminating the river and nearby salmon spawning areas.

After the wreck, villagers pumped out oil and about 400 gallons of high-grade fuel remaining in the plane.

But with a $200,000 cleanup bill, the wreckage has stayed in the river while parties debated who was responsible for removing it, said Donna Erick, Venetie tribal government administrator.

''It's shredding into just a bunch of tin pieces now,'' she said.

Gov. Tony Knowles announced Friday he has donated $10,000 from the governor's contingency fund as start-up money for the removal project.

Knowles has written to U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens in hopes Stevens can lobby the federal government for the additional $190,000 needed for the cleanup.

The allocation represents the first time during cleanup talks that someone has put money forward, Erick said.

''I think it is the start of the process,'' she said. ''We're hopeful that we'll see something out of this and it will force the government to take out that plane.''

A removal plan would likely involve cutting the metal into several pieces and flying it out of Venetie, Erick said. A construction manager would be hired and that the work would be performed by village residents.

Moore and Moss flew the four-engine cargo plane into Venetie on June 28, 1997. The pilots, working for the now-bankrupt Great Arctic Airways, were on a contract from the Indian Health Services to deliver sheet metal to Venetie, a 230-resident village north of Fairbanks.

But shortly after dropping off the load and leaving the Venetie runway, the pilots had to emergency land on the gravel bar a few miles from Venetie because one of the plane's engine fell off.

The plane burst into flames, but all three men on board were uninjured.



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