State Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Pilot gave no indication of fuel problems

JUNEAU - A Utah pilot whose plane crashed in Icy Strait gave no indication that he had fuel problems as he flew from Washington to Alaska, according to a National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

"There was no mention at all, all the way up the line," said Clint Johnson, who is leading the crash investigation for the NTSB.

Johnson said the pilot, Gary Ostler, first reported a critical fuel shortage just a few miles from the crash site and asked for direct clearance to Gustavus.

Six people were on board the twin-engine Cessna 401 that crashed near Gustavus on July 13. Two survivors swam about a mile across Icy Strait to a beach on Chichagof Island. The other four remain missing.

The pilot had made arrangements from Washington to have a fuel truck waiting in Ketchikan. But he did not stop for his fuel appointment or anything else on the way north.

Investigators are so far at a loss to explain what happened.

Mayor gives support to sales tax for Fairbanks

FAIRBANKS - A proposed initiative to substitute sales tax for most city property tax has received the "unofficial support" of Mayor Steve Thompson.

Thompson's stance is at odds with several council members who support paying the city's bills by increasing existing taxes.

Thompson said the sales tax proposal, which would implement a 3 percent sales tax and drastically reduce property taxes, has grown on him as a way to help the city overcome looming deficits.

Thompson estimates the city will need $3 million a year in just a few years to counter the loss of all direct state aid and a major hike in how much Fairbanks will have to pay into the state retirement fund. He said the sales tax could raise that much without hurting city businesses or falling heavily on the poor, calling the tax "the only way the city could be made whole again."

Thompson said his only direct involvement with the citizens group backing the sales tax has been to answer their questions and give them advice. Council members Donna Gilbert and Jerry Cleworth, who oppose the sales tax, contend Thompson was more deeply involved with the group.

Night-fishing closure continues after mauling

ANCHORAGE - Federal agencies and state wildlife officials have extended a nighttime fishing closure near the Russian River in the aftermath of a bear mauling last week.

Dan Bigley, 25, suffered head injuries and bites in the attack just after midnight on July 15. He remains in critical condition at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

During a Monday meeting with state officials and the campground concessionaire, the U.S. Forest Service decided to continue a nighttime trail and bank closure through Friday morning, said Chugach National Forest spokesman Doug Stockdale. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided to close the land it manages along the river in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

"We're hopeful that when the next run of salmon comes in, that the bears will spread out a bit," Stockdale said.

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