Joel Mathis, 01-15-02, Haines, Airplane Crash, Bad Weather

Volunteers pull body from Haines crash

MATHIS: No hint why Skagway Air plane went down Tuesday.

By Lucas Wall , Anchorage Daily News (Published: January 17, 2002)

Volunteers on Wednesday recovered the body of the 39-year-old Skagway Air Service pilot who died in Tuesday's plane crash near Haines.

Two boats with volunteers left Skagway on Wednesday morning and moored near the crash site. The plane went down on a cliff just east of Taiya Inlet, six miles northeast of Haines.

Greg Wilkinson, Alaska State Troopers spokesman, said the volunteers had a tough time accessing the wreckage in a heavily wooded area about 300 feet above sea level.

They recovered Joel Mathis' body about 1 p.m. and took it to Haines via boat.

It was flown to a Juneau funeral home and then to the State Medical Examiner's Office in Anchorage for an autopsy, which is standard in all fatal transportation crashes.

There were no passengers aboard Tueday's 8:10 a.m. Flight 1894 from Skagway to Haines. Mathis was scheduled to pick up two in Haines for the next leg to Juneau. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, but there's no indication what went wrong.

Mike O'Daniel, Skagway Air vice president, said Mathis worked for the small airline since summer 2000. He then went to work for Haines Air in Juneau before rejoining Skagway Air last spring after the Haines airline closed.

"He had a really good work ethic and worked well with everyone here," O'Daniel said. "He was the perfect small-company employee, always willing to help with anything at the hangar or around the office."

Originally from New Mexico, Mathis flew for a banner company in North Carolina before moving to Alaska. His first scheduled passenger flights were with Skagway Air.

"He made really good decisions in the air," O'Daniel said. "We never had any complaints about him. He had good people skills and was easy to talk to. He liked to sit on the bench outside our office in the summer talking to tourists."

Reporter Lucas Wall can be reached at or 907 257-4321.