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Alaska Crash Investigation Proves Challenging

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When a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter crashed shortly after takeoff in Soldotna, Alaska, on Sunday morning, killing all 10 people on board, there were no eyewitnesses, no video and no data recorders on board the aircraft, NTSB investigators said this week. "It does make [the investigation] more difficult," NTSB member Earl Weener said at a press briefing in Anchorage on Tuesday. "We would love to have good flight data and voice recorder information, it makes our life much easier." A Spidertracks tracking device reportedly was on board the aircraft but it's not yet clear how much data that might provide. Investigators also will try to extract data, such as GPS coordinates or images, from cellphones that were found in the wreckage. On Wednesday, Weener said the airplane's engine had been removed and shipped to Honeywell in Phoenix for a full teardown and analysis. Prop damage indicates the engine was developing power when it hit the ground, he said, and all control cables and surfaces were intact at the time of the crash.

Weener said on Wednesday that investigators are conducting interviews to build a 72-hour history of the pilot's activities before the flight. Investigators also are trying to independently determine the weight and balance. Weener said the search is continuing for information about the crash sequence. "We are looking for witnesses and images of the crash," he said. "If anyone has seen anything, they can email us at witness@ntsb.gov." Investigators have determined that the aircraft impacted the ground in a right wing down, nose low attitude, Weener said, about 88 feet from the runway edge and 2,320 feet from the departure end of the runway. The aircraft was piloted by Walter Rediske, 42, the owner of the Otter. Two families from Greenville, S.C., including four adults and five children, also died in the crash. They had planned to visit Bear Mountain Lodge, less than 100 miles away, adjacent to Lake Clark National Park.

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