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Small plane that crashed in rural Alaska, killing 2, apparently hit tree, official says

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A small plane that crashed in Alaska last month, killing a bush pilot featured on a reality TV show and a hunting guide, apparently struck a tree while taking off from a rural airstrip, a local government agency said. officer Tuesday.

Clint Johnson, Alaska region chief of the National Transportation Safety Board, told Alaska Public Media that the apparent impact of a large snag, or dead tree, “then rendered the vertical stabilizer inoperative.” And the plane crashed down soon after.”

The agency released a preliminary report on Tuesday about the crash that killed pilot Jim Tweto, 68, of Unalakleet, and Shane Reynolds, 45, of Orofino, Idaho. Tweto’s family business in rural aviation was featured in three seasons of the Discovery Channel series “Flying Wild Alaska.” Tweto was also well known in the Alaskan aviation community.

The investigation is continuing and a final report is expected within a year.

The crash occurred near the coastal town of Shaktoolik, about 200 kilometers east of Nome. A witness reported varying winds around the time of the flight, according to the report.

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On the day of the crash, two hunting guides were waiting to be picked up from the remote airstrip near their camp to be flown to Unalakleet airport. Tweto had already picked up two fighters and told the guides he would come for them. When he returned, one of the guides boarded with some equipment and Tweto planned to come back for the other guide and the rest of the equipment, the report said.

“On previous departures, after takeoff, the aircraft dove below the runway at the departure point, out of sight, and then climbed back into view and out of the valley,” NTSB investigator Millicent Hill wrote in the report.

The guide who remained behind watched the first part of the takeoff and when nothing seemed to be wrong, he turned and didn’t see the rest of the takeoff, the report said. Hearing no engine noise or seeing the plane climb, he ran to the edge of the ridge and saw that the plane had hit the tundra 300 feet below the runway. He sent an emergency alert from a GPS tracker and then hiked to the wreckage, according to the report.

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A helicopter pilot who responded about 45 minutes later said the wind in the area that day was “unusual,” variable and gusty, the report said.

At the crash site, investigators found a 4-inch-thick tree on the left side of the runway, which had snapped about four feet above the base. The broken fuselage “showed fragments of red paint that matched the paint color of the accident aircraft,” the report said.

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