A Cessna 206 float plane that crashed Sunday afternoon in Halibut Cove hit the water between the Danny J tour boat and the south shore. Piloted by Alaska Dispatch News owner Alice Rogoff, the plane clipped a tree on the east side of the small community located on Ismailof Island.
Stephanie Migdal, a Homer woman on the tour boat with her husband and a friend from Chicago, Dolores Wilber, said she heard the Cessna hit a tree above a house on a point to the east. Wilber took a photo provided to the Homer News that shows the Cessna right after it hit the tree as its right pontoon falls away.
“When it did that, the pontoon went crashing into the water,” Migdal said. “And then it (the plane) came really, really low and crashed into the water right off our stern. … It hit the water and didn’t hit us.”
The plane landed near where the Narrows, the entrance to the cove, begins to widen. The community of Halibut Cove is located on Ismailof Island and the south shore across the Narrows. Halibut Cove also refers to the body of water east of Ismailof Island. Rogoff came in from the east.
The dock to the Saltry is about 300 feet from the south shore. The Saltry is a popular restaurant where the Danny J moors on its tour to Halibut Cove. Rogoff’s plane crashed about 5:50 p.m., about the same time the Danny J was preparing to dock at the Saltry.
In a statement released through her Anchorage lawyer, Brent Cole, Rogoff confirmed she was the pilot and only occupant. Migdal said bystanders on the shore quickly got into skiffs and motored out to rescue Rogoff.
“People were running and jumping into their boats. They mobilized so damn fast it was incredible,” Migdal said.
Migdal said she could see the pilot getting out of the plane and heard her yelling that she was the only one in the plane.
In her statement, Rogoff said she was “physically fine.”
“Fortunately she was not hurt and wants to thank all the people in Halibut Cove for their generosity and good spirits,” she said in the statement. “Clem Tillion’s 91st birthday party went on as planned and Ms. Rogoff was delighted to attend.”
In a press release, Alaska Wildlife Troopers reported they responded by boat to the crash and found that the pilot had left the scene before troopers arrived. Rogoff was safely transported by a private party, troopers said.
Trooper spokesperson Tim Despain said troopers did not interview Rogoff at the scene and did not make contact with the pilot. Despain said troopers have turned over the investigation to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Rogoff said she crashed her Cessna 206 after an aborted landing. Another photo taken by Wilber shows the Cessna continuing to fly after it lost its float. A photo of the plane on the beach shows its fuselage is mostly intact, but with the right wing folded at a 90-degree angle, the other wing bent, one float crumpled under the fuselage and the other float missing.
NTSB air safety investigator Clinton Johnson said on Monday that the NTSB had been notified of the crash about 10 p.m. Sunday. Johnson also said the Cessna hit a tree before landing in the water. “Thankfully, there were no injuries,” he said.
The NTSB will release a preliminary report in about a week.
The plane was removed by helicopter from the Halibut Cove beach on Monday. The NTSB air safety investigator now assigned to the incident, Shaun Williams, said the Cessna was first taken to the Homer Airport and will be taken to a secure location in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
NTSB also did not interview Rogoff at the scene. The NTSB said troopers generally contact surviving pilots at plane crash scenes.
In her statement, Rogoff said the cause of the accident has not yet been determined and she is working with authorities to determine what happened.
Williams asked anyone who might have witnessed the crash to call him at 907-782-4846.