Anchorage’s Janine Amon is being credited with pulling shaken Alaska media-lebrity Alice Rogoff from the chill waters of Halibut Cove after Rogoff crashed her plane there on the eve of the Fourth of July.
A neighbor of former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who was in the Cove to get married, Amon was one of a small army of people who rushed to the aid of the Alaska Dispatch News publisher after a terrifying crash in what is essentially the center of the small, port community.
The fast, loosely organized but efficient rescue was a display of all of what is best about Alaska and Alaksans.
Blogger Scott Frederickson was on the scene and has posted video of the plane recovery along with an eyewitness account of events leading up to the crash.
He credits JT Thurston of Stillpoint Lodge, Tony Billeci, and Amon with the rescue of Rogoff, the wife of billionaire financer David Rubenstein. Rogoff survived the crash physically unscathed.
Almost immediately after the plane hit the water, Frederikson writes, Thurston jumped in his aluminum landing craft and “steered the boat to the site and lowered the front door. The pilot was just coming out of the aircraft with life vest and Tony and Janine were responsible for pulling her from the water and making sure no one else was on the plane. Janine administered to the pilot who was extremely lucky to have no obvious injuries. Tony secured the plane as it was sinking, and with JT’s boating skills, towed the plane to the shore. Another boat came along side and transferred the stunned pilot as shocked tourists on the ferry boat (Danny J) and dock looked on.”
Others described Rogoff’s condition as more composed than stunned.
There is a bit of a cachet to surviving plane crashes in Alaska. More than a few people have earned some distinction from walking away from bad landings. As Alaska attorney, climber, boater, all-around adventurer and former pilot Doug Pope put it, “It is so easy to clip a tree. Every pilot of a small plane has done it or almost done it.”
Rogoff’s plane clipped an eagle-nest tree just before the crash. Frederickson’s blog has a photo of the tree and his eye-witness account of what happened:
“….I saw a small plane attempt to land at a faster rate than the other float planes I had previously seen on the cove. The plane hit the water hard and bounced up about forty feet, turned 90 degrees and almost touch(ed) the water with it’s left wing as everyone on the boat was screaming in horror watching the event in slow-motion. The plane wobbled up, hit an eagle nest tree trimming off the top (the eagle saw the plane coming and flew up just in time to avoid being hit), narrowly missing a house and toppled into the water fifty yards from the fully loaded tourist boat, Danny J, that was coming from Homer.”
Based on Frederickson’s description and that of others, the crash near the Danny J would fall within the “near miss” standards of the Federal Aviation Administration, which considers the danger zone to start at 500 feet.
Fifty yards are 150 feet. There were reported to be about 30 people aboard the Danny J.
The National Transportation Safety Board has begun investigating the crash. One of her attorneys, Brent Cole, Monday issued a statement explaining she was “in an aircraft incident…after an aborted landing. She is physically fine, but her Cessna 206 airplane was damaged. The cause of the accident is yet to be determined and she will be working with authorities to determine what happened.”
An “aircraft incident,” according to the NTSB is an “an occurrence other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft, which affects or could affect the safety of operations. While many incidents do not need to be reported to the NTSB, there are serious incidents that must be reported.”
The Rogoff crash was reported to the NTSB by Cole, NTSB investigator Clint Johnson said today. Alaska State Troopers were notified before that. Troopers reported they got a call from the Cove at 5:53 p.m. Sunday reporting a crash. That call appears to have come seconds after Rogoff’s plane clipped the eagle tree.
Alaska Wildlife Troopers immediately sped to the scene from Homer in their boat. Homer is 12 miles north of the Cove on the opposite side of Kachemak Bay.
“The pilot was not on scene upon trooper arrival,” a trooper Dispatch said. “It was reported to Troopers that the pilot, who was the sole occupant, had no major injuries.”
Trooper spokesman Tim DeSpain said today that the wildlife troopers were never able to interview Rogoff. Once they were able to confirm she was indeed OK, he said, they turned the case over to the NTSB and returned to Homer.
The Rogoff crash qualifies as an NTSB accident and not as an incident, Johnson said. The NTSB describes an accident as any with substantial damage, which means “damage or failure which adversely affects the structural strength, performance, or flight characteristics of the aircraft. This type of damage would normally require major repair or replacement of the affected component.”
The damage to Rogoff’s $900,000 airplane was substantial. She earlier had an incident in the Cove that was minor when the propeller on another 206, a companion plane to the one she crashed, clipped a barge in the harbor. That plane was damaged, but not badly. The FAA allowed a professional pilot to fly it back to Anchorage for repairs.
Johnson said NTSB investigators hope to soon interview Rogoff.