Glenn Wade

By Peter Porco, ADN 10/7/97

Alaska State Troopers on Monday suspended the search for a 67-year-old man believed to have drowned after his plane overturned and sank Friday in Skilak Lake's deep, silty waters.

Troopers said no one actually saw Glenn Wade, the floatplane's owner and presumed pilot, in the plane either before or after it was discovered nose-down and partially submerged about 5:20 p.m.

Rescue divers who went below before the plane sank failed to see anything in the murky waters or to get the cockpit open, said Lt. Randy Crawford, commander of the troopers' Soldotna detachment.

But troopers remained fairly certain Wade died in the accident, Crawford said Monday.

Witnesses said Wade, who has a cabin on Caribou Island near the west end of the lake, had been working on a small hole in one of his plane's floats earlier in the day, according to Crawford.

"He was around the house by himself," he said.

"We have no other missing people. We've accounted for his girlfriend, who's the one person who had regularly ridden in the airplane."

Before it sank, Wade's plane almost took another craft down with it. Residents of the area had motored out in a private boat to the upturned plane, a half-mile off Caribou Island. They tried to tow the plane ashore by tying a line from the boat to it, but the pull quickened the plane's sinking, Crawford said.

As the plane sank, it threatened to pull the boat with it, so residents cut the line.

Investigators don't know whether Wade's plane flipped on takeoff or landing, or why. The plane eventually sank in water 140 feet deep, and Crawford said troopers have no resources to find it or bring it to the surface.

Witnesses also reported that before the plane went fully under, a pair of chest waders were

seen jammed into part of its tail. Wade reportedly was seen in his waders when he was repairing the hole in the float. No other debris turned up.

"We don't know at what angle it has gone down," Crawford said. "It's over a series of shelves that get progressively deeper."

Troopers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers, with the help of military planes and divers, searched the shore and islands in the lake Friday, Saturday and again on Monday.

"There were very few facts to be gathered because we lost the plane so quickly," Crawford said.