Flying community abuzz over indictment of restaurateur who endangered floatplane passengers in Halibut Cove

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A federal grand jury charged Marian Tillion Beck of Halibut Cove last week with willfully harassing the pilot of an aircraft, Eric Lee, who was attempting to taxi his floatplane out of the cove on Aug. 23. Lee operates Alaska Ultimate Safaris in Homer and was preparing to take a group of people on a flight-seeing tour, when Beck operated a boat “in a grossly negligent manner that endangered the life, limb, or property of a person.”

Beck owns the Saltry restaurant in the quaint settlement across Kachemak Bay from the Homer Spit. A video that was shared on Facebook showed a boat buzzing the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, and appearing to threaten it with collision. The plane, with seven aboard, at one point wobbled and a propeller hit the water. The boat appeared to be within inches of the plane.

In all his years of flying, Lee said last summer, he had never encountered such an incident like the one that day.

There are two counts in the federal indictment: 1. Attempted destruction of aircraft, and 2. Gross negligent operation of a vessel.

Beck, the daughter of the late Sen. Clem Tillion and artist Diane Tillion, is a lifelong Alaskan who is a licensed maritime captain and the owner of the Kachemak Bay Ferry, the M/V Danny J., which her father operated for decades as the private ferry to the cove. Born in Seldovia, she attended high school in Homer and college at CalPoly.

An artist like her mother, Beck owns the Halibut Cove Experience Gallery, and she runs the Saltry Restaurant in Halibut Cove. Observers say that she was annoyed with all the tourism activity in the cove, which is on an island largely owned and controlled by the Tillion family for generations.

Agencies involved in the investigation included the U.S. Coast Guard, which submitted its findings to the U.S. Attorney for review and possible action. Amanda Gavelek, a lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard, was copied on the indictment. Assistant Federal Public Defender Jane Imholte has been assigned to represent Beck until such time as Beck can financially secure her own representation.

Destruction of an aircraft is a serious crime and may be subject to a fine as much as $10,000 and prison of not more than twenty years, or both, although the Beck case is more about endangering the lives of seven people in what appeared to be a reckless disregard for human life.

According to 18 U.S. Code § 32 – Destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities, as found at Cornell Law School’s website:

(a)Whoever willfully—

(1) sets fire to, damages, destroys, disables, or wrecks any aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States or any civil aircraft used, operated, or employed in interstate, overseas, or foreign air commerce;

(2) places or causes to be placed a destructive device or substance in, upon, or in proximity to, or otherwise makes or causes to be made unworkable or unusable or hazardous to work or use, any such aircraft, or any part or other materials used or intended to be used in connection with the operation of such aircraft, if such placing or causing to be placed or such making or causing to be made is likely to endanger the safety of any such aircraft;

(3) sets fire to, damages, destroys, or disables any air navigation facility, or interferes by force or violence with the operation of such facility, if such fire, damaging, destroying, disabling, or interfering is likely to endanger the safety of any such aircraft in flight;

(4) with the intent to damage, destroy, or disable any such aircraft, sets fire to, damages, destroys, or disables or places a destructive device or substance in, upon, or in proximity to, any appliance or structure, ramp, landing area, property, machine, or apparatus, or any facility or other material used, or intended to be used, in connection with the operation, maintenance, loading, unloading or storage of any such aircraft or any cargo carried or intended to be carried on any such aircraft;

(5) interferes with or disables, with intent to endanger the safety of any person or with a reckless disregard for the safety of human life, anyone engaged in the authorized operation of such aircraft or any air navigation facility aiding in the navigation of any such aircraft;

(6) performs an act of violence against or incapacitates any individual on any such aircraft, if such act of violence or incapacitation is likely to endanger the safety of such aircraft;

(7) communicates information, knowing the information to be false and under circumstances in which such information may reasonably be believed, thereby endangering the safety of any such aircraft in flight; or

(8) attempts or conspires to do anything prohibited under paragraphs (1) through (7) of this subsection; shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years or both.

(c) Whoever willfully imparts or conveys any threat to do an act which would violate any of paragraphs (1) through (6) of subsection (a) or any of paragraphs (1) through (3) of subsection (b) of this section, with an apparent determination and will to carry the threat into execution shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

42 COMMENTS

  1. OMG! I knew Marian back in the day when we worked together in Juneau, I have fond memories of Marian and recall that she even cut my hair once.

    I’m not making excuses for Marian if the allegations are true, but I wonder what the back story is?

    Some people are very sensitive to Airplane noise, especially if it goes on constantly. Perhaps her Lawyer might consider a plea of Temporary Insanity?

    • Your comment is “temporary insanity”. Yes, there is a “back story” and it’s simple as this: She’s been a privileged person since birth and is simply pissed off because she can’t forbid maritime activity that she doesn’t like and/or agree with in the cove, which I’m sure she’d buy if she could.

      • Thanks for the erudite composition,
        MJ, I wonder if you have ever lived where a FLIGHT of A- Stars or Float Planes buzzed your house for 14 hours a day for 4.5 months every year?
        I’m guessing not… Had you experienced such you might understand the Temporary Insanity plea.

        • Actually yes, I live right by lake hood. I suppose I could get away with all kinds of stuff for 5 months with a temporary insanity plea if I follow this reasoning.

          This woman is a complete entitled —– and truly believe she owns Halibut cove, she doesn’t, the people of Alaska do…ALL of the people of Alaska. If she hates tourism so much, why does she own a gallery and restaurant and a ferry to bring all the tourists to? I believe she dislikes anyone but HER benefiting from tourism. That’s just too bad.

          In addition, and most importantly, she endangered the lives of everyone on that plane. Had she been wielding a firearm and threatening to shoot them all dead, would that be acceptable? Absolutely not.

          She has needed to get knocked off her throne for quite sometime. She does not own the cove, she cannnot dictate how or when people use it. don’t care how long she has lived there or what she has or has not done for the community or who her dad was. It belongs to ALL of the people of Alaska. If she doesn’t like it, well, she may just want to move.

    • “…….I wonder what the back story is?……..”
      My bet is that somebody else is profiting from the increased tourism (obviously airborne instead of by her family’s ferry), she’s unhappy that she can’t control it, and she essentially had a very dangerous temper tantrum. So there’s another planeload of tourists who will go home with the very accurate experience of spoiled Alaskan specialhood.
      Works for me. Nobody was hurt, Beck gets a tour through the federal criminal court system where her specialhood has less opportunity to powder her pampered behind, and more tourists go home with Alaska horror stories that might discourage more tourism, which brings me nothing but crowds.

    • If you’ll recall, those radial engine Beavers and Otters are noisy beasts, so much so that we pretty much chased them out of the Downtown waterfront in Juneau and spent a lot of public money on subsidizing conversions to turboprop, which made them much quieter. When I left JNU in ’10 there were only a couple of radial engine Beavers left and they were operating out of the Airport. I don’t think there were any radial engine Otters left. Remember when the Juneau Greenies tried to ban flight-seeing altogether?

    • Back story, you say?

      1. Halibut Cove has an ordinance prohibiting excess noise before 1 PM.

      2. Troopers declined to charge.

      3. Coast Guard declined to charge.

      4. FAA declined to charge.

      5. What happened prior to the start of this now-infamous video?

      6. The two parties apparently have a bit of “history”.

      Betcha there is more there, there.

      • FAA, Coast Guard can’t go after an individual they don’t regulate. But they all had to submit findings to the State, which then is the prosecuting arm. This isn’t like some kids using an airport runway for drag racing, this woman’s actions could have resulted in potential harm to the passengers.

  2. Agreed… tourism is off the charts. Most tour operators live down south in the off season. Want proof? Try locating a tour operator in December in Juneau. Or a seasonal restaurant owner or jewelers shop owner. 9 out of ten are mia.

    • And the “off season” is most of the year. Tourist season amounts to three months, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Catering prep and breakdown for the industry includes May and September for a grand total of up to five months. The rest of the year that money is spent at home in the states………where it came from.

      • Well, then, let’s hire locals! Oh wait…there aren’t enough of them, as was a major issue this summer in Juneau.

    • what seasonal restaurant owners? Almost all of our places are open year round. Unless you mean the food carts. Tracy’s Crab Shack is the only one I can think of – and she’s a local woman. Reecia is the majority owner of Twisted Fish, Pier 49, and the Flight Deck – and I saw her yesterday.

      Bernadettes – well Ma closed her storefront off Shattuck Way courtesy of Rona and our awesome CBJ Assembly lock downs.

  3. This ‘investigation’ is a bad joke. There appears to be two videos of the incident and the boat and aircraft are identifiable in these. The entire investigation should take as much time as watching these videos and taking statements from pilot, passengers, boat operator, and witness that shot the video from shore. So, maybe a week? The video alone is all that’s needed to show how bat guano crazy she is! What are they waiting for? Is law enforcement hoping this story takes the heat off them for the Mary Fulp incident?

    • This isn’t a State case. It went to a federal Grand Jury and the indictment also went to the USCG for Administrative Review. Doing that to a whale would get your MMC revoked, but I don’t know what they’ll do about endangering seven people. The USCG is all over irritating whales, people not so much when I was last on the water.

    • Safety is paramount when dealing with the public, customers, clients, anyone. Marian seems to have ‘strayed’ from that caliber. Immediate revocation of ALL her licenses that involve public responsibility is appropriate. Such hubris has no season, anywhere.

  4. This is a pretty serious crime, but she’ll probably get away with it due to her powerful family connections. I knew her dad and he was a genuinely nice guy who would be horrified to hear of this.

  5. Something is fishy here. Beck would never do this. My money is on some kind of insurance fraud by the aircraft owner. 7 people sounds too many for that small plane. The details just don’t add up

    • Have you never seen the videos?! ‘Beck would never do this’? Then why is she mentioned in the video as the boat driver? Why is someone heard saying to go get her husband to stop her?
      You accuse the pilot of insurance fraud? He was in a confined stretch of water with a boat swerving at him and It’s HIS fault? Do tell.
      The aircraft in the video is a Dehavilland DHC-2 Beaver. In the U.S. it is certified for up to seven passengers. In Canada, up to 11 passengers.
      Do your homework.

    • Maybe the addition problem is yours. Normal passenger and crew capacity is 7. It is a pretty big airplane actually. Paranoia strikes deep, into your heart it will creep.

        • And second to Dolinsky your posts are the most disinteresting. A long series of critical remarks and never an actual perspective. MRAK’s boring harpy.

          The target of your barb may seem paranoid (I don’t think so) but at least he puts some effort into his posts and once in a while provides content that merits a second thought. You should be so lucky.

        • Lucinda, in defense of Art and Jefferson, given the actions of your Government these last 3 years, I might suggest that IF you are not a little paranoid… you either are not paying attention or maybe numb? ??

    • Did ya watch the video of the incident?

      It is pretty clear that someone is using her boat to terrorize that float plane. If she wasn’t operating the boat, then she knows who was. If she cannot prove that someone took her boat and did this, then she is pretty screwed.

      Hope that this incident doesn’t revoke her captains license as that just might kill her ability to run the monopoly of restaurant and ferry service to Halibut Cove.

  6. Middle name is Tillion; location is Halibut Cove. She will walk. In forty-eight hours, someone will invoke the memory of Jay Hammond. Don’t let anyone suggest we do not have royalty in Alaska.

  7. If the trial is held in HOMER I’m sure there will be seated a highly sympathetic jury. She is a long time resident from an early family trying to protect her livelihood. Something the family has built up over many years. Same issue the small town SE Alaskans were facing with the cruise ships coming to town and ruining the quality of life for a period!!

    • Federal indictment so the trial is held in Federal Court.

      And to defend her dangerous actions by claiming that tourism is ruining her quality of life is pretty wrong. She runs the Danny J, the ferry to Halibut Cove, and the Saltry, the only restaurant in Halibut Cove. She directly benefits from more people coming to Halibut Cove.

      I don’t think that there is a cogent defense for her actions. I wouldn’t be surprised if she took a plea deal to get this over and done with.

  8. “Temporary insanity” seems like a reasonable plea. Seems to be a lot of that going around these days.

    Accommodating increasing numbers of tourists to Alaska in a short 4 month season will require sane people making sane decisions not to diminish the quality of life for those living in Alaska all year long.

  9. It doesn’t help the image of law enforcement when they over-dramatize things. I question the word “endangering.” I would characterize the action more as interfering or harassing. If I were a juror, I would propose a $30,000 fine; 1/3 going to the victim(s); 2/3 going to defray the cost to the government. I would also sentence her to 21-days in a federal penitentiary plus 2-yrs probation to teach her about what she is tampering with. Finally, a felony record would require she check her behavior until she is pushing daisies.

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