NTSB: No cause yet for Beaver crash in Katmai

Aug 9, 2016

A Rapids Camp Lodge Beaver crashed after trying to take off from Crosswinds Lake Monday. Four of the seven onboard were injured.

A Rapids Camp Lodge Beaver crashed after take off August 8 on Crosswinds Lake. Four of the seven on board were injured.
Credit courtesy National Park Service

This story has been updated. The original is further below.

KDLG: The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on the de Havilland Beaver that crashed on Crosswinds Lake August 8, but has yet to offer what caused the crash.

The pilot, Amos Harari, 65, or Witchita Falls, Texas, spoke with investigators on August 9, the day after the accident. "Before starting his takeoff run, he back-taxied the airplane to the far north/northeast end of the lake in an attempt to use the full length of the lake for takeoff. He said that during his takeoff run, the airplane did not become airborne before reaching the lake's south/southwest shoreline, and the airplane floats subsequently collided with an area of rising terrain on the shoreline," the NTSB wrote in its preliminary report.

"The airplane sustained substantial damage to the wings and fuselage," the report said, which was evidenced in pictures taken by two National Park Service rangers who were in the area at the time of the crash. 

Credit NPS

Mitchell Gallo is the NTSB air safety investigator overseeing this accident. Speaking Wednesday, he said the NTSB still needs more information before it will publish a cause or the contributing factors for the accident, including more information from the pilot.

"Well I'm still waiting for a written statement from him on that," Gallo said. "We have additional information we have to look at at this point. One of those things is GPS information, just to see what the speed was on the takeoff run."

The park rangers who were at Crosswinds that afternoon reported wind speeds around 35 mph.

The next word from the NTSB will likely come in a final report, which often takes up to a year to publish. 

The Beaver was operated by the Rapids Creek Lodge in King Salmon and was bringing anglers back from a day fishing at Moraine Creek. Of the seven on board, four were injured and evacuated by air to Anchorage that evening.

Original story from August 9 below.

KDLG: There were no fatalities after a DeHavilland Beaver float plane crashed Monday afternoon near Mirror Lake south of Kokhanok. The Beaver had six passengers and one pilot onboard and was leaving the area after a day’s fishing on Moraine Creek. A multi-agency investigation headed up by the National Transportation Safety Board has not said what caused the plane to crash.

Crosswinds Lake at sunset.
Credit National Park Service

“It occurred during the airplane’s take off run. It ended up onshore, that’s where it impacted, not too far in," said Mitchell Gallo, a senior air safety investigator with the NTSB.

FAA investigators were on scene Tuesday, but Gallo had only preliminary details.

"We’re going to be talking to the pilot and the passengers at some later point, and looking at the wreckage, and hopefully get some good data if there was a GPS onboard. We can use that for any performance calculations. So we’re going to go back and see what happened and hopefully we’ll get a good resolution to it," he said.

The National Park Service said in a press release that the accident occurred on Crosswinds Lake, a popular area for bear viewing and fishing. Some Katmai rangers happened to be in the area at the time of the crash, and reported winds at 35 miles an hour. State troopers in Dillingham say it appears wind might have pushed the Beaver over sideways on takeoff, and that the aircraft rolled before coming to rest upright. AST Sgt. Luis Nieves added that authorities are investigating reports that alcohol may have been a factor.

Four out of the seven onboard were injured.

The park rangers were able to assist on scene soon after the crash. The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center launched an HH 60 Pave Hawk helicopter and an HC-130 fixed wing aircraft out of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, which arrived on scene a little past 8 p.m., about four hours after the crash. One of the four injured passengers was flown directly to Providence Hospital in Anchorage, and the other three taken back to JBER.

A representative of Rapids Creek Lodge in King Salmon said Tuesday morning that the crash happened as guests were being picked up from a standard day of sport fishing on Moraine Creek. According to the staffer, one of the four injured had already been released from medical care, and the others were listed in stable or better condition.

Crosswinds Lake is in a remote area of Katmai on the Alaska Peninsula in between Iliamna Lake and King Salmon. The lake serves as a popular spot for float planes dropping off fishermen, bear viewers, and other visitors.

Reach the author at dave@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.

Crosswinds Lake is a takeoff and landing area for fishing and bear viewing around Moraine Creek and other spots in northern Katmai NP.
Credit NPS