Sunday, May 28, 2017

Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche, N7376Y: Fatal accident occurred May 27, 2017 in Haines, Alaska

Stanley Su Quoc Nguyen

David Kunat  


The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Juneau, Alaska
Piper Aircraft; Chino Hills, California
Lycoming Engines; Gilbert, Arizona

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

NTSB Identification: WPR17FA108
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, May 27, 2017 in Haines, AK
Aircraft: PIPER PA 30, registration: N7376Y
Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On May 27, 2017, about 1101 Alaska daylight time, a Piper PA-30, a multiengine airplane, N7376Y, collided with the ground shortly after a low-level pass over a remote airstrip at Glacier Point, 12 miles southeast of Haines, Alaska. The commercial pilot, and a pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured, and a rear-seated passenger sustained serious injuries. The aircraft was registered to the pilot and operated as a personal flight under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and a flight plan was filed. The flight originated from Juneau International Airport, Juneau, Alaska, about 1015 and was destined for Haines Airport, Haines, Alaska.

An eyewitness located across Lynn Canal, about 2 miles east of Glacier Point, observed the accident airplane through binoculars, flying northbound at tree top level near the airstrip. He stated the airplane reached the end of the airstrip, descended just before it banked to the right, and subsequently impacted the shoreline in a right wing-down, nose-down attitude. The airplane came to rest near the water's edge about 1/4-mile northeast of the airstrip. The eyewitness and three other people responded to the accident site by boat. About halfway across the canal, when cell coverage was available, the witness called local authorities. The eyewitness stated that the rear-seated passenger was the only occupant that was responsive when they arrived at the accident site. The witnesses reported that impact damage prevented them from extricating the rear-seat occupant from the wreckage. Within minutes, tidal water rose and submerged the airplane. A tractor was brought to the site from a local tour facility, and used to drag the airplane to shallow water. Local authorities arrived shortly thereafter and extricated the rear-seated passenger.

The rear-seated passenger was interviewed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator-in-charge (IIC), and reported that about 20 minutes into the flight the pilot intentionally shut down the right engine and was demonstrating how to restart the engine during flight. Despite several attempts, the engine would not rotate through with electrical power to start the engine. The pilot then made several attempts to air-start the engine by gaining altitude and diving the airplane down to use airflow to assist in rotating the engine. After two unsuccessful attempts to air-start the engine, the pilot diverted to a remote gravel airstrip at Glacier Point. The witness stated the pilot intended to land at Glacier Point and use a battery booster located in the baggage compartment to start the engine. As the airplane approached the airstrip, the pilot made a low-level pass to check the conditions at the airstrip. He concluded by stating this was his last memories of the flight.

Initial examination of the airplane by the NTSB-IIC and Federal Aviation Administration inspector revealed impact damage consistent with a right wing-down, nose-down airplane attitude during ground impact. The airplane remained intact and all flight control surfaces were accounted for and cable control continuity was attained. The landing gear was in the down position and the landing gear position switch was also in the down position. The landing disengage motor-raise motor release arm was found in the disengaged position. The emergency landing gear extension handle was removed from its stowed position and installed in a socket on the emergency disengage control. The flaps were in the up position and the flap lever was in the down position. Both engines separated from their respective wing mounts and remained partially attached to the wings by control cables and tubing. The left propeller blades revealed gouging, twisting and material loss of one blade. The right propeller was found in the feathered position with one blade bent rearward; the opposing blade that was unremarkable. The elevator trim actuator was found in the full nose-down position, and the rudder trim indicator was in the nose left position.

The wreckage was recovered for further examination.

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

HAINES — As an incoming tide swamped the wreckage of a private plane that crashed south of Haines Saturday, a family, a tour guide and a visitor from Yakutat used a backhoe and sections of rope to keep the lone survivor, trapped inside, above water.

Juneau resident Chan Valentine, 31, was injured and pinned in the plane's back seat by the flattened seat of pilot David Kunat. He and another passenger were in the plane's front seats, unresponsive.

The Juneau Empire reported the second victim of the crash was Stanley Su Quoc Nguyen, 29, of California. The Empire also reported pilot Kunat's age as 29.

"The water would be up at (Valentine's) chest and we could pull it just enough for the water to come down to his waist. We did that four or five times," said Steve Dice, a state equipment operator from Yakutat. "We just wanted to save that guy's life and get him out of there. The worst thing would be watching that guy drown."

The twin-engine Piper Comanche crashed on the beach at Glacier Point, a roadless moraine and tour excursion site about 11 miles southwest of Haines.

Dice was visiting Haines residents Tom and Patricia Faverty and son Kirby, 14, at the family's cabin at David's Cove, 3 miles across Chilkat Inlet from Glacier Point, when the crash occurred a few minutes after 11 a.m. Dice had heard the plane approaching from the south and was watching it through binoculars.

It seemed to be flying at tree level and had just passed over a gravel airstrip at the point, Dice said.

"It did a low-elevation, 90-degree turn back toward the water, stalled, and went straight in. It was ugly."

Patricia Faverty said that even from across the inlet, the crash was dramatic.

"You could see the wing fly off with your naked eye. It was like a movie. It's still going over and over in our heads."

Outside cellphone range, the Favertys and Dice crossed the inlet in a skiff, arriving to find the plane's wreckage upright on the beach, 10-15 feet above the waterline. When they looked inside the plane, they were surprised to see movement.

Valentine was conscious and could say his name and birthday, but the impact of the crash left him effectively trapped him in a steel cube, Tom Faverty said.

"There was no door. The plane was all around him," Faverty said. "Also, he was all broken up. You're not supposed to move those guys. … Worst-case scenario, we could have tried to take (the plane) apart with the backhoe, or gone looking for a hacksaw. Plus, we didn't have any time."

The Favertys reassured Valentine and sent son Kirby, a high school track and cross-country runner, to get help at the camp of a summer tour operation about a mile away.

"Then the tide started coming in and it got crazy," said Patricia Faverty, who by then had cellphone service and made phone contact with town dispatchers. "I was screaming bloody hell on the phone."

Kirby Faverty located Wiley Betz, a guide at the tourist camp who responded on a four-wheeler, and brought word of a backhoe back at the camp. By the time Dice was able to retrieve the backhoe, the wreckage was already in the water.

"We knew we didn't have much time, but I didn't know we had that little time," Dice said.

Tying together some rope from the skiff, Dice and Tom Faverty attached the backhoe's bucket to the plane's landing gear and started pulling – twice breaking the line. After guide Betz located a chain, Faverty and Dice were able to keep enough pressure on the line to keep the plane afloat.

As the tide floated the wreckage, they were able to pull it toward shore 5 to 10 feet at a time – an estimated 30 feet total – keeping Valentine's head above water until Haines paramedics Al Giddings and Tim Holm arrived aboard a Temsco helicopter from Skagway.

Working in waist-deep water with tin snips, Giddings was able to cut a hole in the top of the plane to extract Valentine, Faverty said.

"The responders were very professional," Faverty said. "They had all the equipment they needed. Al was in charge and knew just what to do. He was amazing."

Original article can be found here:

The pilot of Saturday’s fatal plane crash south of Haines is being remembered as an outgoing and smart adventurer with friends across Southeast Alaska.

David Kunat, 29, died when his Piper PA-30 Twin Cherokee crashed on takeoff about 11 a.m. Saturday at the unpaved Glacier Point airstrip about 10 miles south of Haines, Alaska State Troopers said. Also killed was California resident Stanley Su Quoc Nguyen, 29. Chan Valentine, 31, was injured in the crash.

“God broke the mold when he made that man,” said one of Kunat’s friends about him.

Kunat was one of four children raised by Janusz “Jan” and Elzbieta “Ela” Kunat in Gustavus.

Janusz and Elzbieta immigrated to the United States from Poland in the 1980s, and David spoke Polish and English fluently, even living in Poland for a time.

Kunat’s parents did not return a phone call to their Gustavus home, and many of Kunat’s friends declined to speak on the record before his family had a chance to talk.

In an advertisement on a popular couchsurfing website, David shared his background as a pilot and traveler, writing that he once sailed from Hawaii to Alaska and enjoyed skydiving and scuba diving.

Lucas Baranovic, one of Kunat’s close friends, wrote in an email to the Empire: “David was always very outgoing and adventurous; the amount of stories that I could tell would fill up a book. David had a very carpe diem personality. Whenever he got an idea, he would call you up and say, ‘Let’s go have a great adventure!’ … David was a true friend, who was supportive and cared for others in all their endeavors and pursuits. His loss leaves a huge hole in the lives of all of the people who were so lucky to call him a friend. He lived more in his short lifetime than most of us will live in all of our time here.”

While he enjoyed his adventures, Kunat had a business-minded side as well. After graduating from Gustavus School in 2005, he became a member of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Rural Alaska Honors Institute.

According to state records, he founded two businesses and worked in construction, but his main line of work was as a systems administrator and director for Byte Networking in Juneau.

That company provides computer and Internet support in Southeast, and Kunat was involved with a plan to bring high-speed broadband to Gustavus and Glacier Bay National Park.

A Byte Networking employee who answered the company’s phones on Monday said news of Kunat’s death “still hasn’t quite hit us. We’re still kind of in that shock phase.”

He added that the company will continue to operate.

In January, Kunat had become engaged to Staci Climie, a state employee in Juneau.

Climie didn’t respond to the Empire’s contact requests, but on Facebook said the couple hadn’t shared their engagement with many people yet.

“I love David so much. I cannot believe this is real, I’m wishing this is just a terrible nightmare. I will miss him so much,” she wrote in a public comment.

Chan Valentine, who survived the crash, was Kunat’s coworker at Byte Networking. After being medevaced to Bartlett Regional Hospital, he was flown to Seattle for additional treatment.

His girlfriend, Amy George, flew to Seattle to be with him. She said he has undergone hip surgery and will undergo wrist surgery to repair broken bones, adding that he is in good spirits.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board have flown to Southeast as they investigate the accident.

According to accounts given to Alaska State Troopers, Kunat’s plane was taking off from the Glacier Point airstrip, traveling south to north, when it made a hard right turn to the east, toward Lynn Canal, when it appeared to stall and crash.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers and Temsco Helicopters responded to the accident, as did good Samaritans.

The unpaved Glacier Point airstrip is small enough that it doesn’t show up on the FAA’s aeronautical charts, but it is a popular destination for tourists and visitors to Haines and Skagway.

Weather does not appear to be a factor in the accident. At the Haines airport, 10 miles north, the weather was clear and 52 degrees, with a southeast wind of 8 mph.

So far this year, six people have died in Alaska plane crashes, according to NTSB records and media reports.

Original article can be found here:


A witness observed the Piper PA-30 Twin Comanche take off from an air strip on Glacier Point and "make a hard right turn to the east before stalling and colliding with the ground," said an Alaska State Trooper dispatch posted online Saturday night.

Clint Johnson, NTSB's Alaska chief said the plane crashed into tidal flats, citing preliminary information.

"We had two deceased at the scene," Johnson said Saturday afternoon.

Troopers identified the pilot killed as 29-year-old David Kunat of Juneau. Troopers said the passenger killed was an adult man from California, but they did not provide his name.

Johnson said the second passenger was in critical condition. Troopers identified that passenger as 31-year-old Chan Valentine of Juneau. Troopers said Valentine was taken to Juneau's Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Haines is about 80 air miles northwest of Juneau.

The cause of the crash was not known Saturday evening, Johnson said.

Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said in an email that the plane crashed "under unknown circumstances on a beach."

Johnson said an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board will arrive in Haines by Sunday to continue searching for clues in the crash. 

Original article can be found here:

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