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Investigators at Alaska Site of Plane Crash That Killed 9

Yakima Herald-Republic
Sunday, June 28, 2015

By Becky Bohrer and Gosnia Wozniacka

JUNEAU, Alaska -- A team of aviation investigators is working in a remote, mountainous site in southeast Alaska to determine what caused the crash of a sightseeing plane that killed eight cruise ship passengers and the aircraft's pilot.

The DeHavilland DHC-3 Otter turboprop -- also known as a floatplane -- went down Thursday. The excursion was sold through the cruise company Holland America.

Seven investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board made it to the crash site Saturday morning and planned to spend the day scouring for clues, said Clint Johnson, head of the board's Alaska office.

The plane was on its way back from the Misty Fjords National Monument, a wilderness area of lakes, snowcapped peaks and glacial valleys, Johnson said. The terrain where the plane crash is steep, mountainous, and often sees strong winds and rain.

Johnson said the airplane's wings and tail broke off during impact, but the fuselage -- the body of the plane -- was largely intact. Officials said the plane crashed about 25 miles from Ketchikan on a cliff, 800 feet above Ella Lake in steep, muddy terrain. The cause of the crash isn't yet known.

"It's way too early to speculate,: Johnson said. "We can't speculate out of respect to the families."

Investigators will be looking into weather conditions, pilot qualifications and training records, plane maintenance and inspection records, as well as communications between pilots in the area of the crash, Johnson said. The aircraft was flying in "uncontrolled air space," but one that's well-traveled; here pilots of different airplanes talk to each to help each other navigate.

The victims' remains were flown off the mountain Friday. The eight victims were passengeres on the Holland America Line ship Westerdam. Their 7-day cruise had departed from Seattle on June 20.

Among the deceased was a couple who had found love again later in life.

Rowland Cheney, a 71-year-old, from Lodi, Calif., planned to propose to Mary Doucette on this trip, said Cheney's daughter Marin Whitaker on Saturday.

Her dad raised Kiger mustang horses. As an artist, he was known for huge bronco sculptures displayed in the city off Lodi and a senior center in Dublin, Dalif.

Doucette, 59, was a life-long resident of Lodi. Both had lost longtime spouses in recent years and had found love again.

"Oh we loved Mary, she was such a beautiful person, just lovely," Whitaker said through tears.

"My dad lived life to the fullest,: she said. "He did everything big, so he did this big, too."

Another passenger who perished in the crash, 31-eyar-old Glenda Cambiaso, was a social worker in Montgomery County, MD, in child welfare services. She had previously attended the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

Glenda Cambiaso's father, 65-year-old Hugh Cambiaso, also died in the crash.

Other victims identified by Alaska State Troopers include June Kranenburg, 73, and Leonard Kranenburg, 63, of Medford, Oregon and Margie Apodacca, 63, and Raymond Apodaca, 70, of Sparks, Nevada.

Ketchikan-based airline Promech Fair, operators of the airplane, said the pilot who also died -- 64-year-old Bryan Krill of Hope, Idaho -- had joined the company early this year as a summertime pilot.




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