Mon, Jan 07, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Plane crashes into waters off Kodiak island, killing six

'REALLY TRAGIC' The charter flight operated by Servant Air was flying to the passengers' home town of Homer, on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

AP , ANCHORAGE, ALASKA

A small plane crashed in waters off Kodiak island in southern Alaska, killing six of the 10 people on board, authorities said.

The Piper Navajo Chieftain crashed soon after take off on Saturday afternoon in shallow waters, the Coastguard said. The pilot radioed that he would be turning the plane around, said Clint Johnson, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

"Just after takeoff, the pilot reported an undisclosed problem to the tower," he said. "We don't know why he tried to come back."

A private float plane from a fish processing company pulled four people from the wreckage. One person died trying to swim the roughly 300m to shore, State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

The pilot, 50-year-old Robin Starrett of Kodiak, was killed, as were five passengers from the small community of Homer, Peters said. They are Stefan Basargin, 36; Pavel Basargin, 30; Zahary Martushev, 25; Iosif Martushev, 15, and Andrian Reutov, 22.

The charter flight operated by Kodiak-based Servant Air was headed to their town on the Kenai Peninsula, a 160km ride to the northeast.

Two of the survivors were flown to Anchorage for treatment. One has been released from the hospital in Kodiak and another remains there in good condition, said John Callahan, a spokesman for Providence Health and Services Alaska.

The aircraft is owned and operated by Servant Air, a local company that serves half a dozen communities on the large island in south-central Alaska, 360km southwest of Anchorage. The flight service started in 2003 as a one-plane operation and has grown to a fleet of seven small aircraft.

Ted Panamarioff, a spokesman for Servant Air, said the deaths were a major tragedy for the small rural communities, where air travel is a regular part of life.

"We're all family and friends here," he said by phone from Kodiak. "We knew these customers for several years. This is really, really tragic."

Kodiak and Homer each have populations of roughly 6,000 people.

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