Report says Peltola's plane carrying heavy load when it crashed

The plane that crashed last month in Southwest Alaska, killing Eugene “Buzzy” Peltola Jr., was loaded down with about 520 pounds of moose meat and antlers, according to the first report on the crash released Thursday, Sept. 28, by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Peltola, the husband of Alaska U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, was flying a second and final load of meat out of a remote camp when the crash occurred, investigators said in a five-page preliminary report. A hunter told investigators that the second load was 50 to 70 pounds heavier than the first.

The 57-year-old was the pilot and only person aboard the Piper Super Cub that went down about 64 miles northeast of the village of St. Mary’s in mountainous terrain the evening of Sept. 12. Peltola initially survived the crash but died within two hours, before rescuers could arrive, authorities said. Two hunters pulled him from the plane and provided medical care.

Peltola’s first flight out that day was uneventful, according to the new report.

Before he took off again, the second load of meat was “strapped into the rear passenger seat area with both the seatbelt and rope,” lead investigator Eliott Simpson wrote. Meat was also loaded into the plane’s belly pod that had no gear, such as tie-downs, to secure it. Peltola tied moose antlers to the right wing strut.

The hunters watched as Peltola got into the plane and took off; one recorded a video, according to the report. They noticed his ground roll took longer the second time, it said, “and that the airplane appeared to be more ‘labored’ than during the previous flight.”

As the Super Cub reached the end of the airstrip, it pitched up and turned sharply to the right but flew out of view behind a ridge instead of climbing, Simpson wrote. “The airplane did not reappear from behind the ridge. The group ran to the top of the ridgeline, looked down, and saw that the airplane had crashed.”

The plane’s cargo at the crash site weighed about 520 pounds, mostly moose meat and antlers, according to the report. About 150 pounds of meat was found in the forward section of the belly pod, with the rest “firmly secured” in the rear cabin seating area.

Any official findings on the probable cause of the crash won’t be released until next year at the soonest.

Two days before the crash, Eugene Peltola ferried the group of five hunters, a guide, and their equipment from the operator’s base in Holy Cross, the report said. The group set up camp next to a landing strip in hilly terrain about 80 miles northwest of the community.

On Sept. 11, the group got a moose and coordinated with Peltola to ferry it out the next day, according to the report, which lists the operator as Neitz Aviation. The registered owner of the plane has not responded to requests for comment.

 

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