Wind may have caused deadly crash of Cessna

DECATUR ISLAND — Difficult wind currents may have been involved in a plane crash in which three people died, an undersheriff and an official of the company that owned the plane say.

Michael James Laird, 56, of Graham, the pilot of the West Isle Air Cessna 172, may have taken off to the north rather than the more usual flight path to the south because of winds blowing 15 to 20 knots, San Juan County Undersheriff Jon Zerby said.

Witnesses said the plane made little headway and was almost at a standstill as the pilot tried to raise its nose for takeoff Wednesday afternoon.

Wind sweeping over a hill north of the 200-yard dirt airstrip created downdrafts that could have caused the plane to crash in the dense forests covering hills farther to the north, said Christopher Pagnotta, director of flight operations for West Isle.

Also killed were both passengers, Darron Scott Ramey, 37, of Anacortes and Brett Evans, 39, of Coupeville.

Meth milestone: More methamphetamine laboratories were cleaned up in the first nine months of the year than in all of 2000, state officials say. According to figures released Thursday, Ecology Department crews have removed toxic chemicals and hazardous material from 1,480 meth labs, compared with 1,454 last year, and expect the total to surpass 2,000 by Dec. 31. Pierce County remains the state leader with 486 meth cleanups through Sept. 30, compared with 200 in King County and 105 in Thurston County. Nationally, Washington state ranks second behind California in meth raids.

Hanford job cuts: The two U.S. Department of Energy offices for the Hanford nuclear reservation likely will have to cut almost 50 staff positions over the next year. The Office of River Protection, which oversees management of the radioactive waste tank farms and the waste glassification project at Hanford, currently has 130 employees. Under the new memo, the Office of River Protection’s employment target would be 109 positions. The Energy Department’s Richland office, which oversees management of the rest of Hanford and its cleanup projects, has 366 positions, which it would have to trim to 339.

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