Two men found dead after plane crashes in river near Sitka

One man found on plane, other found farther up river

Update: Alaska State Troopers released the names of the two men involved in the crash. The pilot of the plane was 45-year-old Sitkan Stonie Huffman and the passenger was 66-year-old Californian James Ronge.

 

Two men are dead after their plane crashed during a flight near Sitka this weekend, according to a Coast Guard press release.

The floatplane had been missing for more than 24 hours when Coast Guard searchers found it crashed in the Katlian River on Sunday night with one deceased person on board, Petty Officer First Class Charly Hengen said Monday morning. At 3:30 p.m. Monday, the Coast Guard issued a press release stating that the second man’s body had also been found, further down the Katlian River.

“Our rescue crews searched tirelessly for the men and the aircraft since receiving notification that it was overdue Saturday,” said Capt. Stephen White, Sector Juneau commander. “It’s with heavy hearts that we found the men deceased, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of these individuals during this difficult time.”

At 3:20 p.m. Monday, Troopers identified the men as 45-year-old Sitkan Stonie Huffman and 66-year-old Californian James Ronge. Both men’s remains, according to the release, were given to the Sitka Police Department and Troopers.

A Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew spotted the red-and-white PA-18 Super Cub floatplane at a little after 10 p.m. Sunday, Hengen said, where the Katlian River meets the Katlian Bay. The flight tour, according to a Coast Guard news release Sunday, was supposed to be just a 20-minute flight around the Katlian Bay and the Olga Strait just north of Sitka.

According to a Troopers dispatch, the men flew out for their sightseeing trip at about 7:15 p.m. Saturday, and Coast Guard personnel began searching at 11:27 p.m. when they were reported missing.

The helicopter crew was searching, along with the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Bailey Barco, a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter. A small-boat crew from the Bailey Barco, according to the release, removed the body from the wreckage of the plane. According to Monday’s release, the Coast Guard was working with Troopers, Alaska Air National Guard, the U.S. Forest Service, the Civil Air Patrol, Sitka Police and Fire Departments and Sitka Mountain Rescue in the search.

Hengen said the Troopers and the National Transportation Safety Board will be beginning their investigations shortly into what exactly happened to the floatplane.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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