CRASH SITE IN THE FOG

A TEMSCO helicopter scoots just under the fog to the site of the June 26 plane crash. The couple was later identified as Richard and Leah Ross of Sedgwick, Kansas. Mr. Ross, 70, was piloting the plane with his 69-year-old wife. DL

Two lose lives in small plane crash
Low visibility in White Pass fog a possible factor

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
A small, private Cessna aircraft crashed about 11 a.m. today on a mountainside in the White Pass, 12 miles north of Skagway, at an altitude of approximately 3,500 feet. The plane lay nestled on a ledge 500 feet above the Klondike Highway. Two people were in the plane, and showed no signs of life according to first responders who happened to be nearby.
“We were having lunch in the truck on the road, and Thor saw him clip the mountain with his wing tip, and we all got out of the truck and heard him crash with a big thud,” said Keith Knorr, foreman of the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities’ road crew in Skagway. “Ray (Hosford) and I drove to the top of the hill and saw him. Thor (Henricksen) went to get emergency rigs up here. ”
Knorr said at the time there was only about 100 feet of visibility in the fog that was drifting through.
“We knew he wouldn’t clear this in the soup,” Knorr said. “If you consider he was operating at 105 mph, if he chipped the mountain, he probably slowed down to 80 or 90 mph.”

Skagway Search and Rescue team members arrive at the scene. DL

Ray Hosford and Thor Henricksen climbed up to the crash site, said Knorr, and although they knew Skagway Search and Rescue was on its way, they wanted to see if they could stabilize the pair. It took the men 20 minutes to climb the steep moraine, Knorr said.
When rescuers reached the scene 24 minutes later, the fog continued to lift and descend, and a heavy rain to fall.
Later that afternoon, Skagway Police Chief Dennis Spurrier confirmed the couple had not survived. He said they appeared to be from Kansas as their Cessna 172 was registered there. They were on a flight plan from Juneau to Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The names of the deceased were not released because next-of-kin have not yet been notified.
Spurrier said the plane left Juneau at 10:32 a.m. and the Police Department received the 911 call at 11:09 a.m., and responded in nine minutes.
The pilot would have checked the weather conditions with the flight service center or the Federal Aviation Authority in Juneau, Spurrier said. DOT/PF takes a daily reading of the weather on the pass, but only once in the morning, he said.

Upper Lynn Canal might get fast ferry
But then again, it might go independent

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
The Northern Lynn Canal run of the Alaska Marine Highway System may see a fast ferry sooner than anticipated. Maybe next summer. But that’s a big maybe.
Skagway’s Transportation Committee met Wednesday with its Haines counterparts to discuss a possible independent ferry system for the Upper Lynn Canal. Appointed by Mayor Tim Bourcy, the committee consists of Bourcy, Jan Wrentmore and Councilman Mike Korsmo. Bourcy was not available to go and Councilmember Mike Catsi went in his stead.
Kent Miller who head the Inter-Island Ferry Authority in Craig was present with consultant Jim VanAltworst who will come back with recommendations to the group for its next steps if an independent ferry system is the goal.
“We were in agreement that Skagway and Haines needs to be strong advocates for ferry service,” said Wrentmore after the meeting.
She pointed out that Sitka is trying to create a market for its fast ferry, but that Lynn Canal already has a strong one with numbers to support it.
Gov. Frank Murkowski’s newly-created Marine Advisory Board has been charged with looking at the Southeast Alaska Transportation Plan to determine where the next fast ferry should be deployed. As it stands now, Sitka has been assigned the first fast ferry, the Fairweather, with construction completed by the end of this year. It carries 35 vehicles and 260 passengers, as compared to the older vessels which carry twice as many passengers and three times as many vehicles.
Robert Venables, economic development director for the Haines Borough and the northern Southeast representative on the board, said it set up some criteria for placement of vessels last Friday.
As chair, he was just drafting the notes of the meeting, but thought this was the gist of what was agreed upon: that placement of vessels would lead to a reduced subsidy to the AMHS from the Legislature; to find ways to improve service without increasing the subsidy; establishing flexibility of placement, meaning the vessel can be moved at any time and assigned other routes to see which is more profitable.
With the Alaska Marine Highway System receiving $11 million less in the budget, Venables said the board is looking for the most bang for the state’s buck.
It’s no secret that past Legislatures have pushed the AMHS to pay for itself.
According to figures compiled by the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, and reported in the Chilkat Valley News, putting the fast ferry in Sitka would generate revenues of about $702,000 annually and Lynn Canal traffic, $3.89 million.
Sitka City and Borough Administrator Hugh Bevan said a group went to Juneau last Friday to meet with DOT/PF Commissioner Mike Barton. It was very productive, he said.
“They’re sending a big group over here next week to review our active airport, harbor, road and ferry projects,” said Bevan.
Sitka is scheduled to have a ferry terminal upgrade to accommodate the new ferry.
“They’re looking at our ferry terminal upgrade and there was two approaches, one for $12 million and one for $6 million,” he said. “Neither amount has been zeroed out.”
As for rerouting the Sitka ferry to the Lynn Canal, Bevan said that DOT/PF is beginning to evaluate the entire ferry system.
“They want to reduce that huge subsidy,” he said.
Tom Briggs, state director of marine operations for DOT/PF, did not return phone calls. –DL

Potential SARS case released from hospital
The 85-year-old Canadian woman who was Alaska’s second suspected SARS case was released from Bartlett Hospital last week, said Kerre Fisher, information officer for the Alaska Department of Public Health.
The determination of whether she had SARS is still not known, but considered doubtful.
“We’re still assuming no, but we don’t know definitively” said Fisher.
Fisher said the results from tests done by the U.S. Center for Disease Control have not come back yet.
“We still haven’t seen the results from the case in May,” she said.

City agrees to transfer of clinic assets and liabilities

May or may not seek grant money that was “improperly” disbursed
It was sticky in places, but in the end the City Council agreed to assume all liabilities for the Skagway Medical Clinic. A $12,163 insurance “tail” would cover the Skagway Medical Corp. for any claims reported to the insurance company after the cancellation date of July 1, 2003.
As for the city, it agreed to “assume all known liabilities arising out of the lawful operation of the clinic disclosed to the City in writing before July 1, 2003. The City will not assume any unknown liabilities of the clinic nor any undisclosed liabilities except to the extent that insurance coverages acceptable to the City or with the City named as an additional insured for all claims, acts, or omissions that have or could arise out of the lawful operation of the clinic before July 1, 2003.”
The vote was 5-1, with Councilmember John Mielke voting no.
“I think it’s fair to say that none of us sitting here last year would have thought we’d be in the health care business,” said Mayor Tim Bourcy. “Then the clinic didn’t need any money, then they needed a lot of money. SMC did an admirable job of providing health care to this community over the years. With professional administration, we hope to see the subsidy go down over time, but we have a long-term commitment to this. Health care is a priority.”
As for the $80,088.81 the city has paid back to the Rural Health Network Grant that was considered improperly disbursed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for ATM and Credit card usage and administrative costs, it is up to the city whether it will attempt to recoup the money.
City Manager Bob Ward said the City Council must make the decision whether to try to recover the money, but it may be a case of diminishing returns, Ward said.
“Do you spend $30,000 in legal fees to recover $80,000 or maybe $50,000? Ward said. “It’s up to the Council how much effort and expense they want.”

OTHER STORIES THIS ISSUE:

• 2003 FOURTH OF JULY SCHEDULE

• BIKE RELAY - Results and photos from the Kluane to Chilkat Bike Relay

• SPORTS & REC. - Skagway Alumni team chases canoes, Little Leaguers take on Haines, July 4th softball tourney preview

• HEARD ON THE WIND - Geography lessons needed!

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