NTSB has arrived at crash site; Gene Peltola services are set for Saturday

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Memorial services for Eugene Peltola, Jr. will be held Saturday, Sept. 16 in Bethel at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. The service starts at 2 p.m. followed by a celebration of life and potluck at 5 p.m. at the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center.

Peltola, 57, the husband of Rep. Mary Peltola, died in a plane crash while flying moose meat out of a hunting site about 64 north of St. Mary’s in his small plane. Gene “Buzzy” Peltola was piloting the Piper Super Cub and was the only person on board.

The National Transportation Safety Board has arrived at the crash site at about 2 pm on Friday to delve into the causes of the crash, which some hunting guides and aviators have speculated was a result of a heavy or poorly distributed load of meat in the cargo area of the plane.

Gene was supporting a moose hunt. He had flown out three or four hunters from the area, and two hunters stayed behind.

Gene then made one trip with moose meat, and then left with a second load, with what has been characterized as a large amount of moose meat. That was when the crash occurred on Tuesday evening. The two hunters reached him and tended to him until he died.

A rescue flight from the Alaska Air Guard was unable to reach the site for a few hours due to night conditions and the distance and remoteness of the area. The helicopter was sent from Anchorage on a day when the Alaska National Guard had four other life-and-death incidences to respond to.

The NTSB reported that the the investigative team left Nome early Friday morning and flew to the site via chartered helicopter.

“The team plans to document the wreckage and collect evidence, including devices that may contain important information about the flight. The wreckage will then be removed, by helicopter, to an offsite facility for further analysis,” the NTSB said in a statement.

“Investigators have also received new information about the sequence of events after speaking to witnesses. According to those interviews, the pilot had returned to the area to transport a load of moose meat from hunters he had flown to the location on an earlier flight. The accident occurred when the airplane was departing,” the agency said.

A preliminary report will be available within 2-3 weeks from the date of the accident. It will be available on the NTSB website and posted to the NTSB Newsroom Twitter. The preliminary report will contain factual information gathered during the initial phase of the investigation. A probable cause of the crash and any contributing factors will come in the final report, not expected for another 12-24 months.    

18 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for keeping us informed, Suzanne. The crash occured at 8:45pm. Sunset was at about 8:30pm or earlier. If Peltola was going to return and fly out the other two hunters, he would have been flying in late twilight. A hurried operation, which may or may not have involved overloading, is a recipe for disaster. A pilot who is under the gun to hurry up, can take on additional risks that are not worth taking. Pilots like to speculate on what may have happened. We don’t know the weather conditions or other facts yet, but loss of daylight, overloading, and a schedule to hurry may be factors. RIP, Mr. Peltola.

  2. The Alaska PILOT CULTURE needs to fly by the Book, and not the stories of reckless pilots who push the limits. The Pilot Culture in Alaska has been ruined by “Spill them , Chill em, but never Kill em, Giillum.”. The stories of the early Bush Pilots pushing the limits laid the foundation for future pilots, resulting in Good Pilots can make their own rules. The Tundra is littered with Aluminum from such arrogance. The ARROGANCE Hides behind Alaska is Harsher, Unpredictabe, and no place for GREENHORNS. To counter this MYTH, I ask the reader to consider REEVE AIR, an airline that set a record for SAFETY. They flew in the worst conditions in Alaska for decades with no loss of life. When conditions where poor, they didn’t fly—pretty simple. They didn’t take Chances. The Aluetian passengers would say, “If your not in a hurry to leave, fly Reeve. Flying by the BOOK is boring. Alaska’s Pilot’s need to take Pride in being BORING. These articles of grieving are not necessary. FLY by the BOOK.

    • Sarge, I know a lot of Bush pilots. Every last one of them abide by the adage, “there are old pilots and there are bold pilots – but there are no old bold pilots.” Stuff happens. By bringing out your tale here you are insinuating that Buzzy Peltola paid the ultimate price for not being careful enough – you just don’t know that. Wait for the NTSB. An interview with the guys who tried to assist would be helpful, but even then verify with the NTSB. Speculation here is just disrespectful. The single biggest reason the Bush dislikes the political right is the perceived lack of respect shown to most who live there. This is not the time to attack the Peltolas.
      We’re praying for you Mary and family.

      • Howdy Rich. You read things in my comment that are not there. I never mentioned politics, Buzzy, Mary, rural Alaska Communities, or Right Wing Politics. I wasn’t being disrespectful. I know this is a greiving moment for many. I would like there to be LESS greiving moments on MRAK. It takes a lot of training to become a pilot, and most of them are GREAT pilots, who fly safely. BUT, this State has too many crashes that should have never happened. Remember the horrible accident in Anchorage where a small plane crashed on Ingra witch was overloaded with lumber and burned a small boy alive. Rather then saying the same sympathetic things most people are saying, I’m trying to ask the flying community to do what Reeve DID. Just say —NOT TODAY.

    • I’m pretty sure you meant “Gillam”, not “Giillum”, as that quote has been used often to describe Harold Gillam Sr. As I recall the story of his death in 1943, he crash-landed a plane near Ketchikan, then walked off into the wilderness in the hopes of finding help after making sure his passengers were safely situated. He was later found frozen to death. Feel free to let me know if I misrepresented any details.

      My father flew for a living for 18 years. All sorts of people who knew him from his political career have told me stories of him cussing up a storm when talking about careless pilots. I watched him enough during his flying days to know that he was anything but careless. He decided he was too old to keep flying when he almost struck someone on the ground who was helping him make a nighttime landing at Arctic Village in 1992. I’ve known others who weren’t that smart.

  3. I flew out into the chain for years with Reeve Aleutian & you are correct Sarge, they were the best, but sadly they did crash a Plane.

  4. Of course! Blessings need to be! Regardless of any politics! Mary! And family! Very sorry for your loss! Blessings! Love Snd light!

    • Howdy Crage. A lot of the trained experts are the ones crashing their planes. Ted Stevens pilot, as one example. Years of experience, and flying a TURBO OTTER at alder level. Don’t need a pilot’s license on that one.

        • Not true Greg. The much heralded Great Alaskan Pilot Terry Stevens had a heart attack or stroke in 2006. His pilot’s license was suspended for 2 years. After which he began flying again At the time of the accident—15 minutes after take-off, his plane made a climbing left turn and struck the side oh a hill. At the moment of the crash he was described as unresponsive.. He had to be flying LOW to climb left. He had to be responsive to make the manuver in the last seconds. Fog was never mentioned—ever.

          • Perhaps I should disclose that I used to frequently fly by that hill with the pilot that found the plane. I can tell you that low visibility was indeed the controlling factor. I used to live 25 miles from the crash site and can tell you that fog rolls in quickly. The reason they were flying low was to stay in contact with the ground. Something you never want to loose site of.

  5. Very sorry to read about this. Mary and family, I am truly sorry for your loss. It just proves that we never know about when our time comes. Blessings and condolences.

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