Survivors of Anchorage plane crash flown to NW hospitals


by and Associated Press

Posted on June 2, 2010 at 7:05 AM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 2 at 9:38 AM

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Survivors of a fatal small plane crash in downtown Anchorage arrived in the Northwest this morning for medical treatment.

A Cessna 206 crashed in a busy business district near downtown Anchorage during the Tuesday evening rush hour, killing a 4-year-old boy and injuring the four other people onboard, authorities said.

One of the survivors, a 16-year-old girl, arrived at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle Wednesday morning. She was listed in serious but stable condition. The three other victims, all members of single family, were transported to the burn unit at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland. One of the victims is reportedly in critical condition; no word yet on the condition of the other survivors.

Eyewitnesses say the plane clipped the roof of a motel and crashed in front of an unoccupied former car lot office, igniting a fire shortly after 5 p.m. Dozens of bystanders rushed to the plane, even as it became engulfed in flames, and pulled out the pilot, his wife, their 2-year-old son and the 16-year-old girl, who is an employee of the family. Unfortunately, the couple's 4-year-old son was pinned inside and he did not survive.

Eyewitnesses say the response by strangers was incredible.

"Everybody started running over to help and they had lifted up the wing of the plane and started pulling people out," said one witness. "By that time, there were 30-40 people - there were a lot of people - running in to help out."

"It was the citizens who did the work and pulled people out," said police Lt. Dave Parker.

Even though the crash happened on a busy street during peak rush hour, no vehicles were hit. No other injuries were reported.

"It was red light and there were four lanes of traffic right here and it missed everybody," said one witness. "It hit the parking lot and bounced into the house."

Anchorage police confirmed late Tuesday 16-year-old Rachel Zientak from Texas was one of the injured passengers being transferred to a Seattle hospital. Also onboard were the pilot of the aircraft, 34-year-old Preston Cavner; his wife, 32-year-old Stacie Cavner; and their son, 2-year-old Hudson, police said. Authorities identified the 4-year-old who died as another son belonging to the couple, Miles Cavner.

The single-engine plane was registered to Cavner and Julian Inc., a guide and outfitting business based in Port Alsworth, Alaska.

Police said the Cavners operate a lodge at Port Alsworth, Alaska, and Zientak was one of their employees.

Jennifer Rodi, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator, said it was too early to say what caused the crash. The aircraft went down after departing Merrill Field about a mile away.

Rodi said the four survivors were critically injured. However, Hunter Brosh, one of the motorists who jumped out of their cars to help get people out of the burning plane, said the girl onboard was able to unbuckle herself before she was helped out of the wreckage.

One witness, Adan Hernandez, said he was riding his bicycle when he heard the plane above him. The aircraft started to wobble before disappearing beyond the motel and making a thudding sound, said Hernandez, who took photos of the crash site. A small, cone-shaped piece of the aircraft landed in the motel's parking lot.

Brosh was driving to a guitar lesson and had stopped at a nearby intersection when he heard a loud noise behind him. He swung his head back as the plane slammed into the ground. People started to pour out of their cars and run to the aircraft.

Brosh said the plane burst into flames while those on board were still being extricated.

People starting running over with fire extinguishers. At one point, Brosh heard some of those helping exclaim, "You're spraying on the baby."

A man and a woman onboard appeared very hurt, he said. The woman's mouth was full of blood and it appeared her teeth were knocked out, he said.

For Brosh, the experience was an "adrenaline thing," he said, as he stood outside the yellow police tape used as a barricade.

"I can't say I've ever helped people out of a burning plane," he said.

KING 5's Deborah Feldman contributed to this report.