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Incident Name:  a fire near Galena, Alaska (64.733333, -156.927500 for Galena)
Date:  7/3/1970, 1400 hrs
Personnel: 5 lives lost, 14 injured
Age:
Agency/Organization:  Reeder Flying Service of Twin Falls, ID; under contract with the Bureau of Land Management
Position: aerial firefighters

Summary:

Those killed:

Gregory Pete, BLM Alaska Fire Service, firefighter

Edwig Pete, BLM Alaska Fire Service, firefighter

Cyril James Pete, BLM Alaska Fire Service, firefighter

Micheal Benna, BLM Alaska Fire Service, co-pilot, age 45

Roy Kirk, BLM Alaska Fire Service, firefighter

Four BLM Firefighters and the aircraft Co-Pilot were killed when their overloaded DC-3 had an engine failure and crashed during takeoff from the airport in McGrath, Alaska. Twenty two of the people on board survived but 14 were seriously injured.

The following is from Larry Adams, Regional Fuels Management Specialist, BIA, Anchorage – Larry worked as a smokejumper in the early 70s was a helitack foreman out of ANC-BLM in 1974.  Larry was able to confirm the following:

On July 3rd, 1970, a twin-engine DC-3 aircraft owned and operated by Reeder Flying Service of Twin Falls, Idaho, crashed and burned shortly after take-off from a runway in McGrath, AK. The aircraft was carrying twenty-five Bureau of Land Management forest firefighters, their firefighting equipment, and a crew of two. Co-pilot Michael Benna and four passengers were killed, fourteen other passengers were injured.

 

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crashed and burned shortly after take-off from a runway in McGrath, AK

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA, AAP and research by the WLF Staff:
    • 7/3/1970, 1400 hrs
    • 5 killed

      Gregory Pete, BLM Alaska Fire Service, firefighter, age 32

      Edwig Pete, BLM Alaska Fire Service, firefighter, age 30

      Cyril James Pete, BLM Alaska Fire Service, firefighter, age 28

      Micheal Benna, BLM Alaska Fire Service, co-pilot

      Roy Kirk, BLM Alaska Fire Service, firefighter, age 67
    • Operator: Reeder Flying Service of Twin Falls, ID
    • DOUGLAS DC-3
    • Location: just off runway near McGrath, AK
    • FAA Registration N154R
    • NTSB # ANC71AA0001
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Probable Cause (html)

    Type of Accident:

    Collision with ground/water: controlled

    Phase of Operation

    Takeoff: Initial climb

    Collided with: trees

    Probable Cause(s)

    Pilot in Command - diverted attention from operation of aircraft

    Terrain - high obstructions

    Fire after impact

    Remarks - Plt rotated V2, reduced pwr, co-plt raised gr.acft obsd on rwy r gr retracting, prop hit rnway.

  • NTSB brief:

    NTSB brief NTSB brief

  • For more information consult the NTSB online lookup Utility Use NTSB Identification: ANC71AA001
  • Early news about the crash; more lives were lost than first reported.

    Some information is released Some information is released

  • US Social Security Death Index: Harry Pete | Johnny Pete | Cyril Pete | Michael Benna | Roy Kirk

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Contributors to this article:  Larry Adams, Alaska State Fire Fighters Association

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