Pilot of plane that crashed in Alaska, killing 2, attempted forced landing, report says

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The pilot of a small plane that crashed in Alaska earlier this month decided to make a forced landing after fearing the plane would not be able to safely climb over the mountainous terrain, according to a preliminary report released Thursday. Two passengers died in the crash.

The report from the National Transportation Safety Board cites information provided by the pilot to an agency investigator during a brief conversation in an emergency room. Clint Johnson, chief of the agency’s Alaska region, said the pilot’s injuries had delayed a more in-depth conversation with investigators but that one was planned.

Alaska State Troopers identified those who died as Byron Chitwood, 91, of Texas, and Rodney Murdock, 73, of Kodiak.

According to the NTSB report, the crash on July 2 occurred minutes after the plane left the airport at Old Harbor, which is on the southeast coast of Kodiak Island. The plane, carrying four passengers and their baggage plus the pilot, was bound for Kodiak, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) away.

The pilot and one passenger sustained serious injuries and another passenger was critically injured, the report states.

Johnson said the wreckage has been recovered and the investigation is ongoing.