Five Coloradans die in plane crash near Sitka

Posted: Sunday, July 06, 2003

The wreckage of a twin-engine airplane that crashed while attempting to land at the Sitka airport was found by a Coast Guard helicopter Friday.

Five people aboard the plane, en route from Colorado Springs, Colo., to Anchorage for a vacation, were killed in the crash, the Coast Guard said.

The victims are identified as Michael Baker, 56, and his wife, Kathleen, 52; Richard Lohman, 51, and his wife, Catherine, 46; and Richard Mohnssen, 53, all of the Colorado Springs area.

A Coast Guard search had been under way since about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, when air controllers lost contact with the Cessna 421 as it was making an unscheduled stop in Sitka.

Baker, who was piloting the airplane, told controllers he was experiencing a problem with an exterior cargo door and was going to examine it there, said Coast Guard spokesman Roger Wetherell. The plane had taken off from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, earlier in the day.

Controllers lost contact with the airplane as it descended to 4,000 feet just east of Sitka, said Mike Fergus, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Visibility was low at the time of the crash, Wetherell said, with dense and patchy fog in the area along with rain.

The wreckage was found at about 12:30 p.m. Friday in a densely wooded area about 2 1/2 miles northeast of the airport near Old Sitka.

Jerry Biggs, chairman of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, knew all five victims. He and his wife had turned down an offer to join the Alaska vacation.

"They were doing it more because they loved to fly. They all lived and breathed airplanes," Biggs said. "They all knew what they were doing. I can never believe this happened."

Michael Baker was a Vietnam War veteran and a general contractor who was building a condominium complex in Colorado Springs. Mohnssen was a developer and co-owner with Baker in the business building the condos.

Baker's wife was an accountant. The Lohmans were family law attorneys who had shared a practice since 1995.

The crash is being investigated by the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board, Fergus said.

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