Alaska News Nightly: September 10, 2013

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Despite Fewer Small Plane Crashes, 2013 Yields More Fatalities

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A rash of small plane crashes late this summer in Alaska has pushed the number of crash related fatalities past last year’s total, according to National Transportation Safety Board Alaska Region chief Clint Johnson.

In comparing Thursday’s date with Sept. 10 of last year, Johnson says the actual number of light plane crashes is down.

“In 2012, we had a total of 98 accidents; in 2013, on September 10, we had a total of 85,” Johnson said. “However, that’s where the similarities change.”

“Last year, in September 2012, we had 10 fatalities and, unfortunately, this year, we have 32 fatalities, which is pretty surprising.”

He says an investigation into the most recent crash, on Monday,  continues.

The crash of an experimental home-built airplane took the life of Big Lake pilot Kenneth M. Whedbee, and seriously injured passenger Jason Scott.

Johnson says late summer and fall tends to have more fatal plane crashes.

“Obviously, during the latter part of August September, historically for our office has always been a busy season,” he said. “However, this year, it seems to be a little busier in years past – no doubt about it.”

He says it is too early to tell if there are determining factors related to all the crashes.

“Keep in mind that all of these investigations; these most recent accidents here are still very much in progress, whereas they’re still in the very preliminary stages,” Johnson said. “So, it’s way too early to look and see if there are any similarities between any of the accidents.”

NTSB keeps records on the number of crashes and fatalities on a calendar that runs Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

Johnson says a crash in Soldotna in July took 10 lives, another at Merrill Field in Anchorage recently took two more, while a plane crash on Sept. 5 killed one man.

Other light plane accidents ended without fatalities.

Two men walked eight miles to safety after their plane went down near Nondalton earlier this month, and three men were rescued after their helicopter iced up and was weathered in on Mt. Mageik at Katmai National Park.

A pilot and passenger survived a crash into a lake near Talkeetna over the weekend.

Chukchi Polar Bear Population Remains Healthy As Ice Coverage Lessens

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

The Chukchi Sea has one of the highest rates of sea ice loss in the Arctic, but the polar bears that live there don’t appear to be suffering as a result.

A new study from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service shows the Chukchi Sea bears are just as healthy as they were 20 years ago. The bears still face a grim long term future, but the new research shows there will be a lot of nuance along the way in how climate change plays out for polar bears in the Arctic.

Former State Senator Bill Ray Dies

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

Former state senator Bill Ray has died.  He was 91.

Ray represented Juneau in the Alaska Legislature for more than 20 years, during a time when a number of landmark projects were built in the capital city, including the State Office Building and Egan Drive.  Ray helped secure a downtown facility for the University of Alaska Southeast, and the university named it in his honor.

Contracting Issues Delay Cleanup Work At Reserve

The Associated Press

Contracting issues have delayed the start of planned cleanup work around abandoned well sites in Alaska, a spokeswoman for the U-S Bureau of Land Management said today.

Alaska Airlines Showcases Q-400

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Alaska Airlines is showing off an aircraft it plans to start using in the state next year. The Bombardier Q-400 is scheduled for use on Fairbanks-Anchorage and Kodiak- Anchorage routes, where the 76-seat twin prop plane will replace or augment current service with larger 737 jets.

How Many Shrews Can A Rainbow Trout Eat?

David Waldron, APRN – Anchorage

A rainbow trout from the Togiak Refuge may have broken a record. The record may be disturbing, but it is truly impressive.

Hoonah May Get New Cruise Ship Dock

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Hoonah’s village Native Corporation may build its own cruise-ship dock.

Talkeetna’s Feline Mayor Returns Home

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

Talkeetna’s honorary mayor is recovering in his hometown after a dog attack on Labor Day weekend sent him to the hospital. The attack left Mayor Stubbs, a 16-year-old yellow tabby, with a punctured lung, broken sternum, and a four inch gash in his side, as well as other injuries

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