Brandon Crezee, 08/29/04

One found dead, two hurt at site of small-plane crash
SURVIVORS: Pair stayed at the wreckage under heavy smoke.

Anchorage Daily News

(Published: August 30, 2004)

One man was found dead and two men were recovered with injuries Sunday afternoon at an aircraft crash site northwest of McGrath by a search-and-rescue team from the Alaska Air National Guard.

The survivors spent two nights at the wreckage of their De Havilland DHC-3 Otter about 35 miles out from McGrath under heavy forest fire smoke and severe weather before they were spotted by crews with the 210th Rescue Squadron.

The two men, whose names and ages were unavailable Sunday night, were flown to Anchorage and taken to Alaska Regional Hospital for treatment, according to air guard spokesman Maj. Mike Haller. Alaska State Troopers planned to recover the remains of the victim with a civilian helicopter.

Few other details were available Sunday, Haller said. The troopers had not released any names, pending notification of family members. The survivors suffered cuts, bruises and possibly broken bones, but information on their condition remained sketchy, Haller said.

"It sounded like one had some serious injuries," he said.

The three men had taken off from McGrath about 4 p.m. Friday evening in the single-engine Otter on a flight to Kotzebue. Another aircraft, traveling with them, had taken off a few minutes earlier. When the Otter didn't arrive, the people in other aircraft reported it overdue to the Federal Aviation Administration, Haller said.

Smoke and thunderstorms around McGrath kept searchers grounded Saturday, and the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center asked the air guard to join the search Sunday morning.

The Guard launched an HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter and a HC-130 Hercules rescue tanker from Kulis Air National Guard Base. About 12 to 14 air guard personnel worked on the mission, Haller said.

"We didn't have an (emergency locator transmitter) go off, so we didn't know exactly where they were," Haller said. "We had an idea because they were on their way to Kotzebue."

About 2:30 p.m., the Hercules crew spotted a man at the wreckage waving. Two pararescuers parachuted to the scene. The survivors were taken to McGrath aboard the helicopter and on to Anchorage aboard the HC-130.

Daily News reporter Doug O'Harra can be reached at do'


ID given for men in plane crash
NAMES RELEASED: Two lived and one died in Friday's accident.

Anchorage Daily News

(Published: August 31, 2004)

Officials identified the men aboard a small plane that crashed Friday and left one dead and two injured, one of them seriously, 35 miles west of McGrath.

Brandon Crezee, 28, of Kenai was killed. Pilot Ronald Kakeldey, 65, of Anchorage was seriously injured, and Keith Weymiller, 19, of Seattle was treated and released from Alaska Regional Hospital.

The victims spent two nights at the wreckage of the De Havilland DHC-3 Otter before being rescued by the Alaska Air National Guard.

The Otter was one of two planes transporting hunting camp equipment from McGrath to Kotzebue to set up a camp for Mavrik Aire, according to preliminary information from Scott Erickson, an air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Pilot Kakeldey had not yet been interviewed by the NTSB because of his serious injuries.

Mavrik Aire is a Kenai-based transport company that operates fishing, hunting and sightseeing tours.

The three men left McGrath at 4 p.m. When the Otter didn't arrive at its destination, the second plane reported it overdue to the Federal Aviation Administration around 11 p.m.

The plane was flying with very low visibility because of smoke from the Interior fires and smog. It crashed into treetops about half an hour after takeoff, Erickson said.

Kakeldey and Weymiller escaped from the plane and then went back to pull out Crezee. Investigators could not say whether Crezee died on the crash impact. Fire then consumed the plane, Erickson said.

Rescuers were hindered by smoke and thunderstorms around McGrath on Saturday. They did not reach the crash site until 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

The investigation continues.