Officials seek cause of plane crash

Posted: Friday, September 01, 2000

As the body of a Sitka man who died in a plane crash Thursday underwent an autopsy in Anchorage today, investigation of the accident continued.

The medical examiner's office requested an autopsy after Anton T. Bowers, 69, died about 5:15 a.m. at the Juneau Airport when his Cessna 172 hit a hangar on takeoff. State medical examiner Dr. Michael Propst said the full autopsy report may take up to four weeks.

The four-passenger plane crashed into a steel I-beam, the hardest possible point of impact. If it had hit elsewhere on the Silver Bay Aviation hangar on its sheathing, for example the outcome might have been different, said Greg Wilkinson, spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers. But an I-beam "is not very forgiving," Wilkinson said today.

After impact, the red and silver plane plummeted straight down, landing upside down and ejecting its engine block onto the pavement.

Errol Champion of Silver Bay Aviation said he expected hangar damage to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"We have the insurance adjuster here right now," Champion said this morning. The hangar was built in 1993 to service Silver Bay Logging. It also does retail work and repairs for other operators at the airport, as well as heavy-lifting helicopter-related work, he said.

Bowers, a retired fisherman, had a tie-down at the airport, and was no stranger there, coming and going on a regular basis between Sitka and Juneau, Wilkinson said.

Bowers' son, Charles "Chuck" Woolsey of Sitka, was notified of his father's death Thursday while he was fishing near Chignik on the Alaska Peninsula, the trooper spokesman said.

"Today was the opening for longlining in Chatham (Strait). Both Chuck and Anton had permits, and I expect (Anton) was going there from Juneau," said Patricia Woolsey, Bowers' daughter-in-law. She believed Bowers earned his pilot's license five or 10 years ago.

Weather was good with visibility of three to five miles when Bowers took off early Thursday, banking to the left. "When pilots take off from Runway 8 at the airport, they normally bank to the right. Bowers banked to the left," Wilkinson said.

Investigator Scott Erickson of the National Transportation Safety Board's Anchorage office will continue his inquiries today, said Patty deLa Bruere, airport public information officer. "But we probably won't hear anything new from the NTSB today," she said.

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