Several injured in Newtok plane crash

by Mark Arehart on May 6, 2013

An Era Alaska Cessna 207 went down Saturday near the village of Newtok. Some passengers suffered injuries after the plane crashed short of the runway and skidded across a local river.

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Villagers in Newtok say visibility was extremely poor on Saturday May 4th.

“It was foggy, I couldn’t even see half a mile,” said Era Aviation Village Agent Rammon Carl.

Carl said his cousin was one of four people aboard the plane.

“She didn’t really know that her arm was broken. She looked all right. I mean she wasn’t the only one who was crying. These two other passengers, the teacher and the other lady, and the pilot, I think they were all crying,” Carl said.

“To our knowledge the pilot had a slight injury. He ended up with some stitches on the side of his eye,” said Era Sales and Marketing Director Steve Smith.

He said safety is of the utmost concern for the airline and to his knowledge there were no broken bones reported to the company after the crash.

“We did have one passenger who had some bruising. And we did fly her to Bethel to be checked out at the hospital there,” Smith said.

He said he cannot say what happened on the flight or why the plane went down.

As part of his duties as an Era Agent, Carl communicates with incoming pilots via VHF. He said he warned the pilot about the poor visibility just before the crash.

“He was fifteen minutes out and I told that pilot, “It’s zero-zero (visability,) I don’t think you’ll make it.” And all he said was, “Yeah, it looks pretty good over here.” And I said again, “It’s zero-zero, I don’t think you’ll make it.””

The plane went down short of the Newtok runway, about 1.5 miles to the southwest.

“And looks like he went a little too low. He was way off. He hit the Ninglick River,” said Newtok Tribal Administrator Stanley Tom. “Luckily it was hard snow. Otherwise they could have flipped, but they didn’t. They skidded like about fifty or so many feet.”

The Cessna 207 suffered damage to the prop and the wheels Tom said.

Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration are supposed to be out to survey the damage Monday.

In an email, Allen Kenitzer with the FAA said the crash happened “under unknown circumstances.”

Representatives with the National Transportation and Safety Board and did not comment in time for this story.

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