Pilot, passengers identified in fatal Alaska crash

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The pilot of a small airplane that crashed near Cantwell, Alaska, with two others onboard has been identified as a Washington state man who operated an airplane tour group.

Dale Hemman, 61, of Steilacoom, Wash., died in the crash, along with John Ellenberg, 74, of Greenville, S.C., and Laurie Buckner, 52, of Simpsonville, S.C., Alaska State Troopers said.

Hemman owned Fairbanks-based Let’s Fly Alaska, a “guided, self-fly” tour company, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Hemman on Friday was going to lead 19 airplanes from Fairbanks to Homer but started out early to check weather through an Alaska Range pass. When the airplane didn’t return, other pilots reported it missing.

A fire crew from the community of Cantwell spotted the twin-engine Beechcraft Baron burning at noon Friday off the Parks Highway.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Clint Johnson said the cause of the crash is not clear. He and other investigators are reviewing weather data and trying to reconstruct the plane from the wreckage, which he described as highly fragmented.

“That’s indicative of a high-speed impact,” Johnson said.

Hemman was involved in another crash last July. The Beechcraft Bonanza he was flying lost engine power after taking off from the Fairbanks airport. He landed the plane in a nearby field. There were no injuries, an NTSB report into the crash said. A cause for the sudden engine failure wasn’t found.

He posted a video on YouTube of the crash landing. A similar onboard camera on the plane in Friday’s crash might help investigators determine of a cause of the crash.

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