Cessna crashed into Anchorage business district

Posted: Thursday, June 03, 2010

ANCHORAGE - A small airplane crashed in a busy business district near downtown during rush hour, killing a 4-year-old boy and injuring the four other people onboard, authorities said.

Adan Hernandez / The Associated Press
Adan Hernandez / The Associated Press

Bystanders rushed to help those onboard the Cessna 206 after it clipped the roof of a motel and crashed in front of an unoccupied former car lot office, sparking a fire shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday. No other injuries were reported.

"It was the citizens who did the work and pulled people out," said police Lt. Dave Parker.

A witness, Hunter Brosh, said a girl was among those pulled out alive. Brosh was one of the motorists who jumped out of their cars to help get people out of the burning plane.

Anchorage police said in a statement late Tuesday that 16-year-old Rachel Zientak of Texas was one of the injured passengers and was to be transferred to a Seattle hospital.

Also onboard were the pilot of the aircraft, 34-year-old Preston Cavner; his wife, 32-year-old Stacie Cavner; and their son, 2-year-old Hudson, police said. The three were to be flown to a hospital in Portland, Ore.

Authorities identified the 4-year-old who died as another son belonging to the couple, Miles Cavner.

The single-engine plane was registered to Cavner and Julian Inc., a guide and outfitting business based in Port Alsworth, Alaska.

Police said the Cavners operate a lodge at Port Alsworth, Alaska, and Zientak was one of their employees.

Jennifer Rodi, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator, said it was too early to say what caused the crash.

The aircraft went down after departing Merrill Field about a mile away.

Rodi said the four survivors were critically injured. However, Brosh said the girl onboard was able to unbuckle herself before she was helped out of the wreckage.

One witness, Adan Hernandez, said he was riding his bicycle when he heard the plane above him. The aircraft started to wobble before disappearing beyond the motel and making a thudding sound, said Hernandez, who took photos of the crash site. A small, cone-shaped piece of the aircraft landed in the motel's parking lot.

Brosh was driving to a guitar lesson and had stopped at a nearby intersection when he heard a loud noise behind him. He swung his head back as the plane slammed into the ground. People started to pour out of their cars and run to the aircraft.

Brosh said the plane burst into flames while those on board were still being extricated.

People starting running over with fire extinguishers. At one point, Brosh heard some of those helping exclaim, "You're spraying on the baby."

A man and a woman onboard appeared very hurt, he said. The woman's mouth was full of blood and it appeared her teeth were knocked out, he said.

For Brosh, the experience was an "adrenaline thing," he said, as he stood outside the yellow police tape used as a barricade.

"I can't say I've ever helped people out of a burning plane," he said.

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