Efforts end to find crash wreckage, women's remains

Posted: Monday, September 08, 2003

ANCHORAGE - Efforts have ended to recover the wreckage of a small plane that crashed into the Arctic Ocean near Barrow three weeks ago with two women aboard.

Winds and rough seas thwarted attempts by a noted Colorado recovery team to locate the remains of the women and the twin-engine Reims 406 that went down 10 miles offshore in Peard Bay on Aug. 17, said Dale Ferguson, safety director for Hageland Aviation Services.

No additional recovery operations are planned, Ferguson said. "We're at a point where we can't go any further," he said. "We tried our best."

Pilot Shima Funakoshi and her mother, Yoshiko Funakoshi, are presumed to have died in the crash, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating.

The pilot, a 30-year-old Japanese citizen, had worked for Anchorage-based Hageland for several years and was on a routine mail run from Barrow southwest to Wainwright when the plane crashed.

"She had flown in this area, she had flown that airplane," said NTSB investigator Clint Johnson. "She had a substantial amount of experience."

The pilot's 58-year-old mother, who was visiting from Japan, was along for the ride as a nonpaying passenger.

The cause of the crash remains unknown, Johnson said.

The plane departed Barrow at 12:49 p.m. The 20-25-minute flight path covers 54 miles of open water, according to the NTSB report.

The safety board's analysts still must examine the full radar record, Johnson said. But a preliminary look at the raw data indicates that after the plane had reached an altitude of 700 feet, it descended to 500 feet and banked into a right turn, to the north, when it was some 30 miles out of Barrow.

The aircraft, traveling about 207 mph, then descended to 400 feet.

The final radar reading on the plane occurred at 12:56 p.m., seven minutes after take-off, and appears to show it heading again to the southwest.

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