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Air Excursions pilot who crashed Thursday identified

Company's director of operations releases statement

Posted: August 3, 2012 - 11:35am  |  Updated: August 5, 2012 - 12:05am

The Air Excursions pilot who crashed near Point Howard west of Juneau Thursday morning has been identified.

Alaska State Troopers said in a Friday dispatch the pilot was 56-year-old Kevin Murray, of Chelan, Washington.

The cause of the crash is unknown and is under investigation, Troopers said.

The white and teal Piper Cherokee airplane was reported overdue at about 9:17 a.m. while it was on a routine flight traveling from Juneau to Gustavus.

The pilot, who was the only person reported on board, was due in Gustavus at 8:55 a.m. and was last heard from at 8:47 a.m., near Point Howard, about 25 miles east of Gustavus in mountainous terrain.

The Coast Guard launched a search for the missing plane with a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and a good Samaritan helicopter from Coastal Helicopters.

Lt. Ryan Erickson, with Coast Guard Sector Juneau, said in a release the Coastal helicopter located the wreckage at about 3 p.m. near Point Howard in the Tongass National Forest, 23 miles west of Juneau. The Coast Guard rescue helicopter delivered a four-man Juneau Mountain Rescue team to the ground approximately one half mile from the site, Erickson said.

When they arrived at the crash at about 4:24 p.m., they found the pilot deceased, Erickson said.

“It is extremely unfortunate that we were unable to rescue the pilot and our deepest condolences go out to his family,” Erickson said. “We thank all the personnel who have taken part in the search.”

The JMR team was returned to Juneau aboard the Coast Guard helicopter. The Coast Guard is standing by to assist Troopers with recovery operations today.

Air Excursions LLC is a company that offers flight-seeing tours of Southeast Alaska and offers scheduled service from Juneau to Gustavus, Hoonah, Haines, Skagway and Kake, according to its website.

The company’s director of operations Michael L. Loverink released a statement about the incident Friday morning, saying, “Air Excursions is deeply saddened by the news of the death of our pilot, co-worker and friend Kevin Murray. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.

We will assist the National Transportation Safety Board in any and all ways to determine the facts surrounding this accident. Safety is, and will always be, our number one concern.

We want to thank all of those involved in the initial search for Kevin, including Coastal Helicopters, the Coast Guard, the Alaska State Troopers, the employees at Air Excursions and the many friends in the Juneau aviation community that were there for us when we needed you. Your support is deeply appreciated.”

A NTSB spokesman in Washington, D.C. told the Empire a regional officer based in Anchorage will be handling the investigation for the NTSB.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-226 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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