Crash survivors airlifted to Juneau

Four missing, two survivors found after plane crashes near Gustavus

Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Two survivors of a weekend plane crash near Gustavus that left four people missing are out of the hospital after being treated for minor injuries.

Khyl Shummway, 22, was treated for minor bruises and exposure at Bartlett Regional Hospital, said Marijo Toner, a spokeswoman for the hospital. Benjamin Gunn, 25, suffered from hypothermia, a gash to his right leg and a bruise above his eye. Both victims were released at about 3:15 p.m. Monday

The plane's pilot, Gary Ostler, and his son, Christopher Ostler, 18, both of Salt Lake City, and the pilot's brothers-in-law, Gordon and Adam Moses, of Lindon, Utah, are missing. Shummway and Gunn are Gary Ostler's sons-in-law.

The group was visiting Alaska on a fishing trip, said Christa Ostler, Gary Ostler's wife. Gary Ostler has been a pilot for more than 10 years.

The group left Salt Lake City in the Cessna 401 Sunday morning and refueled the plane in Idaho that afternoon, said Roger Wetherell, the spokesman for the Coast Guard in Juneau. Ostler had planned to stop in Ketchikan for more fuel.

Complications in Ketchikan prevented Ostler from refueling the plane there, so he decided to continue to Gustavus, Wetherell said. He was unable to specify why the plane could not stop in Ketchikan. Authorities at the Ketchikan airport also would not comment on the refueling situation there.

The Juneau flight standards district office for the Federal Aviation Administration, which is conducting the investigation of the crash, has not confirmed the plane's origin, final destination or last fuel stop, said Rich Hudgens, assistant office manager for the district.

"We're still investigating a lot of aspects on where the flight originated from, where it got fuel last, seeing if he did actually purchase fuel someplace," Hudgens said. "Then we also look at the performance characteristics of the aircraft."

The FAA investigation of the crash could take up to six months, Hudgens said.

The plane went down near Gustavus at about 9:30 p.m. Sunday, and the Coast Guard began its search almost immediately, Wetherell said.

"We knew he was going to ditch it - he didn't have any fuel, and he was just gliding," he said. "One of the survivors said the plane was very much intact, and that leads us to believe that the pilot did a great job of landing it."

At 8:30 a.m. Monday the crew of the vessel Kelly Bay spotted the two survivors on Eagle Point on Chichagof Island. The Coast Guard airlifted the survivors to Bartlett Regional Hospital, Wetherell said.

Shummway and Gunn told the Coast Guard two of the other passengers were able to get out of the plane before it sank, Wetherell said. According to The Associated Press, the Ostlers escaped the plane. The group broke up as the four swam to shore.

The U.S. Coast Guard, the National Park Service and private plane and boat owners planned to continue to search the area between Mud Bay and Hoonah indefinitely, Wetherell said.

On Monday afternoon, the Coast Guard sent a helicopter with infrared heat detectors to search the area, as well as dogs and volunteers with Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search.

Christa Ostler, reached by telephone in Salt Lake City, expressed gratitude to the organizations helping in the search.

"I just can't believe what a wonderful community you have," she said. "Everybody was willing to help out and go the extra mile and continue to search. We're very grateful for that."

Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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