Myles Cavner 06-01-10
Child dies, 4 hurt as plane crashes in Fairview
By JAMES HALPIN, MEGAN HOLLAND and LISA DEMER, Anchorage Daily News, Published:
June 1st, 2010
Rescuers pulled four people from the wreckage of a sputtering small airplane that
crashed into a Fairview building during afternoon rush hour Tuesday but were unable
to save a preschool-age child before the crumpled airplane exploded in a ball of
The Cessna 206 had just left Merrill Field when it went down about 5:05 p.m. at
the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Ingra Street, setting an unoccupied car dealership
Police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker identified the people as a family of four and a
teenaged girl, possibly a babysitter. Father Preston Cavner, 34, mother Stacie Cavner,
32, and their 2-year-old son, Hudson, were taken Tuesday night to Legacy Emanuel
Hospital in Portland, Ore., Parker said. The couple's 4-year-old son, Miles, died
in the wreck, he said.
A 16-year-old, Rachel Ziempak, of Texas, was transported to Harborview Medical Center
in Seattle. She was not related to the family, Parker said.
Police said all four survivors were in critical condition.
The plane lay crumpled on the ground aside John Stepp's Auto Center, a vacant used
car dealership. Firefighters had the blaze under control by about 5:30 p.m., though
they continued to pour water on the building and on the plane, where the child's
"There were a bunch of citizens that heard the crash and came over, trying to get
people out," said Anchorage police Sgt. Mike Kerle. "As they were here, the flames
started. At one point, one of the fuel tanks exploded and that's how the building
caught on fire. They tried to get everybody out, but the fire was just too intense
and they couldn't do it."
Paramedics and police from all over the city rushed to the scene, closing down a
large section of Ingra Street to all traffic.
The people pulled from the wreck were initially treated on the street by medics.
Some of the victims were covered by aluminum blankets.
Witnesses reported the airplane was in obvious trouble before the crash. Adan Hernandez,
31, was heading home from work biking south on Karluk Street when the plane rumbled
"It was so loud, it hurt my ears. It rang my head," he said. "It started to wobble,
like left to right, in the air. I realized this wasn't going to be good."
He heard it hit and rode toward the sound, just a couple of blocks away.
Some witnesses reported that the airplane, which was heading west from Merrill airfield,
clipped the Ingra House, a rooming facility on the east side of the street, before
wobbling down through a power line and hitting the ground, sliding into the northeast
corner of the Stepp building on the west side of Ingra. A piece of airplane, possibly
a wing or tail tip, had broken off and was visible in the parking lot across Ingra
from the crash site.
Inside Ingra House, Michael Chester, 29, was in his third-floor room facing John
Stepp's when he heard an engine revving loudly followed by a loud smack against
the building. To him, it sounded like a NASCAR in-car camera when a driver hits
the wall, he said.
"Just smack, crunch. I know that sound and it's not good," Chester said. "I looked
out and I seen the plane just kind of hitting and then kind of bounced up a little
When Hernandez reached the scene, there was at least one police officer there and
more kept coming. People in the area stopped and rushed to help get the passengers
out of the smoking airplane.
"People are scrambling left and right. There's people yelling for a fire extinguisher,"
he said. Some grabbed extinguishers from nearby buildings. "There were six or seven
dudes and they lifted up the wing of the plane to try and get people out."
Down on Ingra, Pete Sesto, 29, had been on a test drive when seemingly out of nowhere,
the navy blue airplane sputtered down from the sky into his field of view, clipped
a power line and smacked into the building. He pulled off the road and ran over
to the crash on the heels of two others who had been passing by, he said.
Those in front started pulling the plane doors open and getting the victims out,
then passing them back to Sesto and others, who helped drag them out to the street,
"As soon as it hit, I heard people screaming," Sesto said. "We were getting people
out as quick as we could. People (on the plane) had torched pant legs and stuff.
A lot of burns to the face, banged up. ... I don't know what just happened. That
was pretty darn intense."
Another rescuer, Hunter Brosh, 29, had been driving north on Ingra to a guitar lesson
when he saw a "surreal" crash. He said everyone on Ingra stopped, got out of their
cars and went to help. He estimated that 25 good Samaritans got involved.
Brosh and others held up a wing to pull people out, he said. A young girl got out
on her own, he said, but the pilot and a passenger were trapped. People ripped at
the doors and seat belts, Brosh said.
Someone was saying there was a passenger left in the back of plane, possibly a baby
or young child. A woman passenger in front of the plane was trapped and someone
sprayed her with a fire extinguisher to protect her, he said. One man in a military
uniform appeared to have some medical training and was offering more help than others.
At that point, Brosh said, there was only smoke. But a fire started a short time
"Oh my God, I couldn't believe it," Karen Gutierrez, 48, who lives in an apartment
on Eighth Avenue, said as she saw the fire build. "I never felt so helpless."
Parker said the good Samaritans who pulled the four to safety may have saved their
"They immediately descended on this thing," Parker said. "They were pulling people
out, the four survivors out, before the airplane burst into flames. They got the
people out. They saved their lives."
The airplane had a navy blue tail and wing, though much of the rest of the aircraft
was incinerated in the fire. At the scene Tuesday evening, a black tire lay detached
in a lot near the wreck and water-soaked wooden planks pulled from the husk of the
car dealership lay amid the charred wreckage.
The words "Sound Flight" were printed on the tail and the airplane is registered
with the Federal Aviation Administration to Cavner & Julian Inc., whose website
promotes Stonewood Lodge on Lake Clark and a guide service for hunting, fishing
and bear viewing in western Alaska. The airplane was based in Port Alsworth, according
to the FAA.
NTSB air safety investigator Jennifer Rodi said the airplane was departing Merrill
Field for an unknown destination when it went down just blocks from the airstrip.
It wasn't immediately known where the child who died was sitting in the airplane.
A full investigation into the cause of the crash, including an inspection of the
airplane's remains and a toxicology screening for the pilot, was getting under way
Tuesday with an examination of the crash site, she said.
The crash was the second fatal plane wreck near Merrill Field in less than two years.
On Oct. 1, 2008, another Cessna 206 lost power shortly after lifting off from Merrill
Field and crashed into a nearby commercial building, killing two people.
The National Weather Service reported mostly cloudy skies and winds out of the southeast
at 21 mph on Tuesday evening.
The vacant building, at 839 E. Seventh Ave., had most recently been a used-car dealership
but had been vacant since November, said Anita Finnsson, a representative of a company
overseeing the estate of the building's late owner, John C. Stepp Sr. Before that,
it was a real estate office, Finnsson said.
The 1,400-square-foot building was heavily damaged in the fire.
Overloading likely cause of fatal 2010 plane crash, board says
By CASEY GROVE, firstname.lastname@example.org, Published: March 17th, 2011
2010: Report finds Cessna was at least 658 pounds too heavy.
Severe overloading caused a plane to plummet from the sky after takeoff from Merrill
Field in Anchorage in June 2010, according to a probable-cause report from the National
Transportation Safety Board released Thursday.
"Two witnesses said that just before it took off the airplane was loaded so heavily
that its tires looked almost flat," the probable-cause report said.
Police at the accident scene identified the father and pilot as Preston Cavner,
34. The crash and resulting fire killed Cavner's 4-year-old son, Miles, and burned
Cavner and three others inside, the NTSB said.
Cavner's wife, Stacie Cavner, 32, son Hudson, 2, and 16-year-old Texas resident
Rachel Ziempak survived with critical injuries.
The Cessna 206 was bound for Port Alsworth and packed with construction materials,
groceries, luggage, plants and other items for a family lodge, according to the
Investigators estimated Cavner had overloaded the plane by at least 658 pounds.
The amount of cargo impeded rescuers trying to get to victims inside the plane,
the report says.
That weight estimate is a conservative number, said Jim LaBelle, chief of the NTSB's
"In 26 years of aviation accident investigation, both as an investigator and as
a manager, I have never seen an aircraft involved in an accident that was that much
overweight," LaBelle said.
The NTSB also faulted Cavner for using the plane's flaps outside of recommended
limits, which caused increased drag, and for allowing the two younger children to
ride on other passengers' laps, a violation of federal air regulations that require
kids to be strapped in.
On the day of the accident, the plane took off and climbed to an altitude of about
150 feet. Witnesses said the engine was loud and the plane, its nose at a high angle,
was struggling to climb, according to the report.
The crash occurred about 5:05 p.m., police said. The plane fell yards away from
the busy intersection at Sixth Avenue and Ingra Street.
Brian Caton, a former manager of the nearby Ingra House hotel, recalled Thursday
witnessing the plane crash and subsequent rescue.
"It hit the top of our building, spun around, and crashed into the building across
the street," Caton said. "It was pretty mangled."
A small fire broke out under the crumpled plane, and 15 to 20 people ran toward
the scene, some with fire extinguishers, Caton said. They worked to get the door
open and pulled out the four survivors just before the plane exploded into flames,
The plane had hit a small, empty building located on a defunct used-car lot. The
building also caught fire.
Firefighters had the blaze under control by about 5:30 p.m, police said.