FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Anchorage FSDO-03
NTSB Identification: ANC16CA053
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, July 31, 2016 in sleetmute, AK
Aircraft: CESSNA U206G, registration: N206JC
NTSB investigators will use data provided by various entities, including, but not limited to, the Federal Aviation Administration and/or the operator, and will not travel in support of this investigation to prepare this aircraft accident report.
Aircraft Make: CESSNA
Aircraft Model: 206
Event Type: Accident
Highest Injury: None
Flight Phase: TAKEOFF (TOF)
Estes Park Police Chief Wes Kufeld just returned from a fishing trip with a group of friends, floating and fishing the Holitna River in the heart of wild Alaska. The trip was one Wes had been looking forward to and planning for months ahead of time. It was supposed to be a seven day trip filled with floating Alaskan rivers, fishing and camping among bears, moose, wolves and eagles. Wes said, “We were far away from any civilization, and didn't even see another person for seven days.”
Even though Wes lost his luggage for the first four days of the trip, that was only a minor inconvenience as he said, “The fishing was outstanding, catching many differences species of fish, and enjoying fresh salmon meals with a great group of friends, enjoying fellowship and nightly devotionals. It was just a great time to regroup!”
Wes and his friends were amazed at the breathtaking beauty Alaska has to offer. He was in awe of the wildlife, the scenery and the Alaskan people who he says are the friendliest people he has ever met anywhere!
On the last day, last day of this amazing trip, Sunday, July 31st, Wes and his friends loaded their gear into a very small plane, a Cessna 206 Cub, in an effort to fly back to Aniak, and from there to take a commercial plane back to Anchorage. Once they carefully loaded the plane with their gear, the pilot taxied down the muddy and grassy runway. Wes felt the pilot power up and when the plane got up to speed, estimated at 100 mph, the plane lifted off. Immediately after leaving the ground however for some reason, the plane took a sharp right turn, then a sharp left and the plane and all five occupants crashed into the trees below. Wes said the thing that went through his mind at that point was “Oh no, we’re going down!” and he waited to feel metal slashing through his body. It all happened in an instant.
Another guide who was on the ground watching them leave said it was the most terrifying thing he has ever seen! He thought for sure all of them would be killed in the crash.
According to Wes, the momentum continued to take them now in reverse through the trees, crumpling the tail of the plane. When they hit solid land, Wes said the landing gear protruded through the floor of the plane where they were seated. After the plane stopped moving, Wes (who was riding in the very back of the airplane) noticed there was no smoke, no smell of fuel and no fire and the men who were momentarily stunned, opened the doors to evacuate everyone from the crumpled wreck. After accessing all five of them in the plane, they discovered they were very lucky no one was killed or seriously injured, just a few minor bumps and bruises.
Now, back in the Alaskan wilderness with no transportation out, the group was forced to get back into their boats and float the river 50 miles to another small town called Sleetmute, a community along the river. Once in Sleetmute, they called for another plane to pick them up which included taking off from another small muddy grassy runway.
When they boarded the next plane, Wes said it was a little hard not to think about the crash, but they were all looking forward to getting to Anchorage where they would be happy to enjoy some pizza and a beer to celebrate
Chief Kufeld is back in Estes Park now, safe and sound and we can all be grateful that this story didn’t have a different ending. It could have been so tragic for so many.
Wes said, “They say your life flashes before your eyes when you’re about to die. Wes said, “There was no time for that, it all happened within seconds. They also say you have a better chance of being struck by lightning than being in a plane crash.” Wes says with a smile, “Well...I'll be running for cover in rainstorms now.”
Story and photo gallery: http://www.estesparknews.com