Wrangell Sentinel -

By Dan Rudy 

Weather contributed to crash, NTSB report suggests


A preliminary report for the investigation into the April 8 plane crash which killed three and injured another was released late last week.

The National Transportation Safety Board found that weather conditions may have contributed to the accident, which involved a Cessna 206 airplane registered to Sunrise Aviation. The flight had departed from Wrangell airport at 8:10 that morning, heading for Angoon. It crashed en route on the southeastern end of Admiralty Island, near Pybus Bay.

The plane was flown by airline co-owner Dave Galla, who the report indicated had conversed with partner Tyler Robinson over a company radio frequency about weather conditions at Pybus Bay during the flight. Low clouds and reduced visibility along the plane’s planned route reportedly prompted Galla to seek an alternate route.

The closest weather reporting facility to the site was Angoon Airport, about 17 miles to the northwest. At 09:56 a.m. an aviation routine weather report reported calm wind conditions, with “few clouds at 2,300 feet, broken clouds at 4,200 feet,” and visibility at 10 statute miles.

Sunrise Aviation uses devices by satellite tracking service provider Spidertracks on its aircraft, and the plane was equipped with a digital 406-megahertz emergency locator transmitter which transmits a distress signal to search and rescue satellites within minutes of a crash.

In the NTSB report, some 15 or 20 minutes after speaking with Galla, Robinson landed another company plane in Wrangell. Noticing the Spidertracks signal was stationary in an area of mountainous terrain, he contacted Angoon Airport personnel. The flight had not arrived, and attempts to contact Galla on his aircraft radio and cell phone were unsuccessful. Shortly thereafter, Robinson had been contacted by the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center, which informed him the plane’s ELT had begun broadcasting its distress signal.

The United States Coast Guard at Air Station Sitka was contacted at 10:25 a.m., and dispatched an HH-60 rescue helicopter to search for the plane. The wreckage was discovered by a Temsco Helicopter craft, about 17 miles southeast of Angoon.

The plane had crashed at around 2,240 feet above sea level in an open area of snow-covered terrain, which sloped upward at 27 degrees.

It impacted the snow in a near vertical attitude, sustaining substantial damage to the

fuselage and wings. The NTSB report notes the area between Wrangell and Angoon

consists of remote inland fjords, coastal waterways and steep terrain.

Initial attempts by the USCG helicopter to reach the site were thwarted by a severe downdraft and difficult terrain. A

Sitka Mountain Rescue team was called in, and was conveyed to the site by an HH-60. The helicopter was able to land on an adjacent ridgeline at 1:55 p.m., and the response team hiked from there to the crash site.

Along with Galla, passengers Greg Scheff and Thomas Siekawitch had been killed in the accident; all three were from Wrangell. A third passenger, Morgan Enright of Ketchikan, survived the crash and was transported to Juneau for treatment. She was transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle the following morning for higher level care, and remained in critical condition through the week.

By Monday, Enright’s family had posted on Facebook that she had successfully undergone surgery on her leg, no longer required a ventilator to breathe, was in stable condition and was continuing daily improvements.

Alaska State Troopers

reported the bodies of Galla, Scheff and Siekawitch had been recovered on April 9. NTSB and Juneau Mountain Rescue investigators had recovered the plane wreckage over that weekend and have assessed it in Juneau. A detailed examination of the aircraft’s Continental Motors IO-550 series engine is pending.

The NTSB report notes the information is preliminary, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors contained in the report will be corrected when the final draft has been completed.


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