PILOT, 5 passengers die in crash of sightseeing plane in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park

Tuesday, July 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HAINES, Alaska (AP) _ A sightseeing plane ferrying tourists crashed near Glacier Bay National Park, killing six people.

Four of the passengers were German tourists, and one was a Canadian, according to Alaska State Troopers. The pilot was an American.

The Cherokee Six plane operated by LAB Flying Service of Haines took off from Skagway about 2 p.m. Monday. A search was launched when the single-engine plane didn't return by 5 p.m.

The plane was spotted Monday evening by a Coast Guard helicopter high on the Davidson Glacier, about 12 miles south of Haines near Glacier Bay National Park. A rescue team landed at the site and found no sign of survivors.

An effort to go to the site a second time in order to remove the bodies and begin an investigation was hampered by poor weather Tuesday morning. The cloud ceiling was at only 1,600 feet, lower than the crash site, and rain and wind were forecast for the afternoon.

The pilot was identified as Chad Beers, 26, of Juneau. Names of the passengers were not released pending notification of relatives.

The crash was not the first for LAB. In July 1995, another LAB Cherokee Six slammed into a mountainside above Pyramid Harbor, a few miles north of Monday's crash site, also killing six. Investigators said that crash was caused by pilot error.

A LAB Piper PA-32 crashed into the Davidson Glacier in September 1996, injuring two people seriously. Four others on the aircraft had minor injuries.

A Cherokee Six operated by LAB also crashed on Admiralty Island on a flight from Juneau to Kake in October 1997. Two died in that crash.

LAB has about three dozen planes operating across Southeast Alaska. The company's business operations are in Haines and flight operations are based in Juneau.