Alaskan police contact Washington man after plane crashPosted: Updated:
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The search for a pilot who left the scene of a fatal plane crash is over. Authorities said Loni Habersetzer contacted them by satellite phone Saturday evening.
Now the work begins to pinpoint why Shaun Lunt's plane crashed, killing him.
An Alaska State Trooper pilot on another mission flew to investigate a plume of smoke he spotted on the horizon about 17 miles south of Quinhagak near Jack Smiths Bay at about 7:30 p.m. Friday. There was one super cub in flames, and a second one, intact and nearby, its pilot alive.
Troopers arrived on scene around 10 p.m. to find the pilot, 33-year-old Lunt of California had died in the crash.
Troopers said Habersetzer was flying in his own Super Cub and had safely landed on the beach, but for an unknown reason he took off after they made contact with him from the air.
"The indication was that he was freaked out and he did indicate he might leave," said Alaska State Trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen. "We told him to stay put, and we left the area, and by the time we got back at about 10 p.m., he was gone."
The survivor -- Habersetzer -- is a flying instructor. He's highly skilled, his website indicates, at taking off and landing among some of the most challenging and diverse terrain Alaska has to offer.
Lunt, a student, was impressed enough to offer this video testimonial: "He teaches you to be able to analyze the area and judge the capabilities of the airplane and yourself and be able to fly to that place and many others," Lunt says in a video at Habersetzer's website.
A blog Lunt put together catalogues the California anesthesiologist's Alaska flying adventures.
But his most recent one ended in flames on the tidal flats of Southwest. Habersetzer, the likely sole witness, now could hold valuable clues about what went wrong, authorities said.
"We'd just like to talk to him," Ipsen said. "We understand that this is pretty traumatic for him, but we want to find out what happened."
As each tide cycle pulls more of the wreckage to sea, investigators said, those initial photos hold their own clues.
"We don't know if he was taking off to the north, to the south. We don't know if it was during landing," said Clint Johnson, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board. "But point being, there was a very strong wind indicated by the plume of smoke, coming from the west."
Habersetzer told the Associated Press he initially left the scene because he was too upset to see his friend's burning plane.
According to the Associated Press, Habersetzer said he and Lunt were beach-combing from the air when Lunt circled back to take a second look at a whale bone.
Habersetzer further tells the Associated Press that during his second pass over the bones the plane stalled and spun and hit the ground and burned.