Airplane Carrying Six from Utah Crashes in Alaska

Airplane Carrying Six from Utah Crashes in Alaska

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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) -- Two men swam more than a mile in frigid waters and huddled for hours on a remote beach on Chichagof Island after the small plane they were in crashed in Icy Strait Sunday night.

The Cessna 401 was forced to make a water landing in the channel in Southeast Alaska after the pilot radioed that he was out of fuel, the Coast Guard said Monday.

Khyl Shummway and Benjamin Gunn, both of Salt Lake City, were rescued Monday after being spotted by a passing charter boat.

The pilot, Gary Ostler, and his son, Christopher, were last seen clinging to a duffel bag and swimming for shore.

"We still hold out some probability that these folks could have made their way to the beach," said Coast Guard Commander Mike Kendall, who coordinated the rescue efforts.

Also onboard were Gordon and Adam Moses, who the Coast Guard said were brothers. All the men were from Salt Lake City and were enroute to Gustavus when the plane crashed about a mile offshore in the channel between Chichagof Island and Gustavus.

Kendall said the airplane set down on the water where it floated for about three minutes before sinking. The pilot, his son and the two others made it out of the plane and began swimming to shore, Kendall said.

After swimming about 50 yards the pilot and his son, who were clinging to a duffel bag, fell behind, Kendall said. The rescued men shouted encouragement to the two and kept swimming to the remote beach at Eagle Point.

"They knew that to survive they had to get out of the water," Kendall said.

The two men huddled onshore waiting for rescue after swimming for what they told rescuers was about an hour-and-a-half.

The six had taken off from Port Angeles, Wash., on their way to Gustavus when they radioed Juneau air controllers that they were low on fuel, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said.

Gustavus is a village of about 420, lying about 48 miles northwest of Juneau at the foot of the St. Elias Mountains.

The last radio contact with the airplane came at about 9:30 p.m. Sunday about 12 miles east of Gustavus, said FAA spokesman Donn Walker.

Someone aboard the charter boat Kelly Bay spotted one of the survivors at about 6:30 a.m. waving his arms from shore.

"They were on the edge," said Mike Mills, captain of the Kelly Bay. "They were bloody cold when we got to them."

Mills launched a skiff that brought the men water, warm blankets and insulated clothes. Soon after, a Coast Guard helicopter landed and took the men to Bartlett Regional Hospital, Mills said.

Currents in that particular part of the Inside Passage can be very strong and the water temperature was about 59 degrees, Mills said. But the airplane apparently came down close enough to shore to give the men a chance, he said.

"If they would have landed out in the middle where the current was strong, they wouldn't have had a prayer," Mills said via a cell phone from his boat.

One of the rescued men was hypothermic and had some bruises from the crash landing, but the other man was in good health, said a hospital spokeswoman.

The two survivors refused a request for an interview.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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