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)
Wes Kufeld, like all of us, looks forward to a vacation every year.
This year was special.
The Estes Park Police Chief planned a fishing trip with a group of friends along the Holitna River in the remote wilderness area of southwest Alaska.
"I had been planning on this for months and months," Kufeld said this week, a few days after he returned home. "It was a wonderful time, a great time. We caught lots of fish."
The Holitna River is a 110-mile long tributary of the Kuskokwim River in southwest Alaska. It is formed by the confluence of Shotgun Creek and the Kogrukluk River east of the Kuskokwim Mountains. The area is home to all five species of Pacific Salmon as well as Char fish, Grayling, Northern Pike and Sheefish.
Besides being a fisherman's paradise, it is also home to abundant wildlife.
"We saw grizzly bears, black wolves, moose, eagles and beavers," Kufeld recalled.
Despite losing his luggage on the way to the first camping site and having to wear the same clothes for four days, the vacation was just about everything he hoped for.
"It was a good time to relax, almost a spiritual time in the wildnerness," Kufeld said. "It was a great fellowship time with friends. It was fun camping out on the rock bars (in the river)."
Then, there was the trip home.
After packing everything up on Sunday, July 31, and boarding a Cessna 206 Cub for the first leg of the trip home, Kufeld had nothing but pleasant memories and great photos.
As the Cessna raced down the dirt, mud and grassy area used as a runway, Kufeld had little on his mind.
"The plane started to lift off," he said. "We got about 20 feet in the air and then we had a hard right (turn), then a hard left (turn) and flew right into the trees.
"You know they say when you are about to die that your life flashes in front of you? It wasn't like that at all. I thought to brace myself and prepare for the metal that probably would come through the plane. I told myself this will probably hurt.
"Instead it was over very quickly. It was silent. Everyone was puzzled. We were talking and no one was injured by the absolute grace of God. I credit the pilot for his years of experience to set it down the way he did."
Once the pilot and four passengers were safely out of the plane, Kufeld said the group got into their boats and floated about 50 miles down the Holitna River to the next area where they could catch a plane to Anchorage and then catch a commercial flight home.
Kufeld despite the plane crash, the trip was a fantastic experience, one he will always remember.
The National Transportation and Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash and has talked to him, Kufeld added.
"They just don't know yet (what caused the crash)," Kufeld said. "They're still in the very early stages (of the investigation)."
Will the crash cause him to have second thoughts about going back to Alaska again?
"No, I'll go back," he said quickly.