Plane crash near Hastings kills pilot
A single engine Cessna 172 crashed on Monday nearly vertically into the sea ice near Hastings Creek outside of Nome, killing the only person on board. Troopers identified the deceased pilot as Thomas Grainger, 28 of Wasilla. His next of kin has been notified.
According to a Trooper dispatch, the plane was enroute from Wasilla to Nome and had left Wasilla on Sunday. Due to ice fog and low visibility, the Cessna 172 was not able to land in Nome.
National Transportation Safety Board aviation accident investigator Noreen Price was onsite on Tuesday with two FAA investigators to lead the investigation into the crash. Price said the plane probably took off in Wasilla around 5 p.m. on Sunday and that it was expected to reach Nome around 9:30 p.m.
The pilot, she said, was to visit friends in Nome. He texted to a friend in Nome and his fiancée in Anchorage that the weather was bad and prevented him from landing on City Field in Nome.
Price said he made three passes over City Field before heading back east. The weather at the time was such that planes would have to fly by Instrument Flight Rule. AST spokeswoman Megan Peters said that they believe the plane crashed shortly after 10:15 pm on Sunday. NTSB investigator Price said the pilot most likely died on impact.
According to Nome Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jim West Jr., the Nome Search and Rescue volunteers were notified that there was on overdue aircraft. The authorities checked with officials in White Mountain, Golovin, McGrath if the plane had diverted to those locations, but nobody saw the plane. On Monday morning, West Jr. sent out a hasty team with two snowmachiners. They found the downed plane about 150 yards from shore on the sea ice, nearly three-quarters of a mile from Hastings Creek. The NVFD and the Nome Volunteer Ambulance Department deployed 23 responders, said West Jr. They retrieved the pilot’s body and transported it to the road, which was plowed open by the State Dept. of Transportation road crew. The body was sent to the State Medical Examiner in Anchorage.
NTSB investigator Price said the investigation is in the very early stages. The onsite investigation is complete as she and her FAA colleagues have retrieved evidence from the crash site. They will issue a preliminary report within the next week, a full report in six months and a probable cause report within 18 months. Price said the next step is to remove the airplane wreckage to a secure hangar location in Nome, where the investigators will continue to piece together what happened.