Valdez, AK Private Plane Crash, Jun 1995


Anchorage (AP) - Search crews have recovered the bodies of four Ohio visitors whose twin-engine Piper Navajo apparently smashed into a mountainside near Valdez Sunday, Alaska State Troopers say.
The crash victims were identified by troopers as pilot MARVIN J. THIEL, 57, and NORMA D. THIEL, 56, both of Blakeslee, Ohio, and JOHN W. HARTMAN, 65, and REGINA M. HARTMAN, 62, both of nearby Edgerton.
The bodies were recovered by troopers and members of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group Tuesday afternoon. They were taken to Valdez, and were to be flown to Anchorage later.
The retrieval was carried out in marginal weather, with visibility down to 100 yards at times, according to trooper spokesman Steve Wilhelmi.
Bad weather had kept air searchers on the ground much of the time since the plane was reported missing late Sunday, and the area was too rugged for a ground search. A weak signal from an emergency locator beacon led searchers to the wreckage.
The wreckage was reportedly scattered over a 500-foot area at the 4,100-foot level in the Camicia Creek drainage, according to troopers. The site is in a rugged area about six miles east-northeast of the Valdez Airport.
"It appears that it flew into the side of the mountain, breaking apart upon impact, then slid about 500 feet down the side of the steep slope," said Lt. Col. Terry Graybeal of the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Fort Richardson.
The pilot had apparently missed his approach for an instrument landing in Valdez Sunday and was coming around for another attempt when the plane hit the mountain.
Investigators from the National Traffic Safety Board visited the crash site Tuesday afternoon, Wilhelmi said.
An ERA Aviation Inc. helicopter spotted the wreckage at 9 p.m. Monday, but low clouds and rugged terrain prevented the helicopter from landing near the crash site.
The aircraft left Homer about 2:45 p.m. Sunday afternoon heading fro Valdez on a flightseeing trip, according to 1st Lt. Howard Yager of the Civil Air Patrol in Anchorage.
On its approach to Valdez, the pilot radioed the Juneau flight center for permission to make an instrument landing from the west, Yager said. The pilot radioed back to Juneau saying he had missed the approach and was going around to try again. Soon after that, contact with the plane was lost.

Daily Sitka Sentinel Alaska 1995-06-28