The wreckage of a single-engine plane that crashed July 24th on Douglas Island rests in a Juneau hangar. A National Transportation Safety Board crew is piecing the aircraft together for the investigation into the accident that killed Charles Luck and his wife Liping Tang-Luck.
The NTSB preliminary report indicates the plane crashed very shortly after Luck communicated with the Juneau tower. So soon, says investigator Clint Johnson, that in interviews the air traffic specialist used the term “moments.”
“Mr. Luck called in, indicated that he was about 10 miles to the southeast, landing Juneau, and right after that, we’re not sure exactly how long it was, just moments after that, they received a very faint ELT signal,” Johnson says.
That Emergency Locator Transmitter signal led searchers to an aircraft debris field, at about the 31-hundred foot level of Mount Ben Stewart, near the Eaglecrest Ski Area. The fuselage and bodies were not found until the following day. It was six days before skies cleared enough to recover the bodies.
Johnson has been conducting interviews and expects to review Juneau Air Traffic Control Tower tapes later this week. He’s also awaiting autopsy results.
“What we’re doing is gathering information on the pilot, as far as past history, experience level,” Johnson says. “Obviously there was an autopsy and toxicology screen, which is very, very standard for anybody who’s killed in an airplane accident.”
Charles Luck was a physician assistant at the SEARHC health care clinic in Hoonah. According to Johnson, Luck had not filed a flight plan for his early morning trip to Juneau.
Johnson says the Cessna was being operated on visual flight rules. While weather conditions at the accident site aren’t known, the Juneau airport tower reported marginal conditions that morning.
Johnson says local pilots tell him that when the cloud ceiling is low in Juneau, it’s often even lower over the area where the plane crashed.