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Plane Crashes Near Juneau; 4 Dead

August 9, 1999

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) _ A single-engine plane barely cleared a row of trees near a popular boat launch Sunday night before banking and slamming into a wooded hillside, witnesses and authorities said.

All four aboard the single-engine Cessna 185 were killed, Juneau Police Lt. Ron Forneris said early Monday. An Alaska State Trooper, who was among a dozen officials searching the steep hillside through thick mist and heavy rain, found the bodies.

``He indicated that the wreckage was pretty spread out,″ Forneris said.

Linda Wendeborn, who was checking boats for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game when the plane took of from Juneau Airport, said the plane was ``maybe 3 feet off the top of the treetops.″

Wendeborn said the pilot abruptly gave the plane full throttle and banked away from the icy waters of Gastineau Channel, toward the island’s mountainous interior.

``He put the gas to her and started climbing,″ Wendeborn said. ``The engine was just screaming.″

After the plane zoomed out of her sight, Wendeborn heard it clip a tree, and then she heard the engine die, but did not hear an impact.

Dick Beeler said he heard a plane’s engine sputter and die, followed by a crash, as he walked back to the road from a fishing spot on nearby Fish Creek.

``It coughed maybe three times, then there was about three seconds of silence, then a crash,″ said Beeler, a tourist visiting from Cape Coral, Fla.

The National Transportation Safety Board was expected to investigate the crash, Forneris said.

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