Harry Raymond Secoy III (Photo provided by family)

Lake Stevens pilot, who lived ‘Alaska dream,’ died in Fairbanks crash

Former Snohomish County lawyer Harry “Ray” Secoy III, 63, worked as a DC-4 pilot in Alaska in the last years of his life.

LAKE STEVENS — A pilot with deep roots in Everett died in a cargo plane crash near Fairbanks last month, officials in Alaska have confirmed.

The two copilots, killed in a crash April 23, have been identified as Harry Raymond Secoy III, 63, of Lake Stevens, and John Sliwinski, 68, of Anchorage. The Alaska Department of Public Safety officially confirmed their identities Thursday to The Daily Herald.

The pair was an “A Team” who spent countless hours flying together, Sliwinski’s wife wrote in a condolence message to Secoy’s family.

Harry Raymond Secoy III (Photo provided by family)

Harry Raymond Secoy III (Photo provided by family)

Formerly a lawyer in Washington with a wide-ranging practice, Secoy served as a DC-4 pilot based in Palmer, Alaska, in the last years of his life. The skies are where Secoy felt “most alive,” a Herald obituary read.

“Ray’s passion for fishing, flying, and extending a helping hand to those in need defined his remarkable life,” his obituary read. “He will forever be remembered for his jovial spirit and his zest for living.”

Around 9:55 a.m. April 23, Secoy and Sliwinski were taking off from Fairbanks International Airport in a Douglas C-54D cargo plane, according to a preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board. The two were transporting 3,400 gallons of unleaded fuel and two 100-gallon tanks of propane for Alaska Air Fuel. They were bound for Kobuk Airport about 300 miles to the northwest.

Moments after the plane went airborne, one of the pilots radioed air traffic control, stating “there was a fire on board” and they needed to return to the airport, according to the review.

A witness saw the cargo plane flying west from Fairbanks, with the far left engine not running and a small white plume of smoke behind it, the report read. The plane turned south. Security footage showed a “bright white explosion” along the wing, followed by flames, the report says. White smoke tailed from the left engine, as fragments of airplane wreckage fell to the ground. The engine detached, and the plane descended into the frozen Tanana River. Secoy and Sliwinski were pronounced dead.

A fire after the crash “incinerated much of the airplane structure,” according to the NTSB initial report.

As of this month, federal investigators hadn’t determined the official cause of the crash, though it was believed to be accidental. A follow-up report was expected in the coming months.

Alaska Air Fuel did not respond to a request for comment.

At Sliwinski’s memorial service at Anchorage Grace Church, he was remembered as “a husband, father, respected Alaskan Aviator, and most importantly a born-again believer.” He had been issued a commercial pilot’s license in 2016.

Secoy’s grandfather and namesake, Dr. Harry Secoy, was one of four doctors who found The Everett Clinic in 1924. Harry Secoy III, who also went by Ray, received his license to work as an attorney in Washington in 1996. He practiced family, criminal and general law at a law firm with a Lake Stevens mailing address. Court records suggest he hadn’t worked on a case in Washington since about 2015.

Secoy earned his commercial pilot’s license in Anchorage in 2017, with endorsements for flying single-engine planes, commercial aircraft and helicopters. He was registered to fly in Palmer, less than an hour drive from Fairbanks.

According to his obituary, Secoy’s love for fishing and flying led him to live his “Alaskan dream.”

He is survived by his wife and three kids.

A Herald reporter was unable to reach members of his family this month.

“Whether it was soaring through the skies or casting his line into the water, Ray found solace and joy in the great outdoors,” his obituary read. “A true nonconformist, Ray lived life on his own terms, never shying away from a challenge or an opportunity to have fun.”

Maya Tizon: 425-339-3434; maya.tizon@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @mayatizon.

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