Fatal Birchwood plane crash currently under investigation

An early morning plane crash near Anchorage has claimed four lives. the Cessna 172 accident is currently under investigation.

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Shaun Williams of the NTSC at a press conference concerning the Birchwood Plane crash. (Photo by Ellen Lockey, KSKA - Anchorage)
Shaun Williams of the NTSB at a press conference concerning the Birchwood Plane crash. (Photo by Ellen Lockey, KSKA – Anchorage)

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Shaun Williams said the plane took off from Birchwood airport Wednesday morning and crashed at about 9:05 in a densely wooded area. Investigators have determined the model of the plane, which burned on impact.

“The type of aircraft has been identified as a Cessna 172, the tail number is confirmed to be N 63541. There were four people on board, all three sustained fatal injuries.”

The area of the crash is located off a muddy, dogsled track about a mile from Birchwood airport. Williams says preliminary information indicates the plane took off from the airport, but why it crashed is not clear.

He says the investigation is made more difficult because the airplane fragmented when it hit trees going down.

“The debris field spans about one hundred yards,” Williams told reporters.  And the fire consumed important details, he said.

“Everything from fuel lines, to avionics to anything that could be inside the airplane,” said Williams.

Investigators have recovered the bodies and next of kin have been notified. Anchorage Police have identified the victims as pilot George Kobelnyk, age 54, co – pilot Christian Bohrer, age 20, and passengers Sarah Glaves, age 36 and Kyle Braun, age 27.

Williams says the NTSB plans to recover the wreckage Thursday and take it to storage for more detailed evaluation. After that investigators will know more.

He says so far, there is no evidence of a flight plan, and the destination of the plane is not known at this time. Williams told reporters at an impromptu press conference that the airplane was capable of carrying four people.

Williams said further investigation will focus on the pilot, the plane itself and the environmental conditions at the time of the crash. A representative from Cessna is expected to arrive this week to help in a “detailed engine examination.”

Williams said the investigation will continue Thursday morning.

“There’s families out there that this is the worst day of their life, and we try to get them the information that they want, and that they deserve,” Williams said.


APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone.
Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA
elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

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