Former legislator dies in plane crash on Beluga Lake

Homer Tribune/Sean Pearson Standing on the wings, a diver helps direct the plane out of the lake to begin removal.

A diver sets inflatables in motion to bring up the Cessna 206 that sank into Beluga Lake Tuesday night.

Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

Officials and divers recovered the Cessna 206 that crashed in Beluga Lake Tuesday night, an accident that killed former Anchorage legislator Cheryl Heinze and left four others with minor injuries.
At about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Alaska State Troopers received several 911 calls reporting a plane crash at Beluga Lake in Homer. Homer Police Department and Homer Fire Department were contacted and a rescue boat was launched to rescue the individuals on board.
Heinze was an Anchorage Republican legislator from 2002-2004 and most recently served as the director of human resources for the Matanuska Electric Association. Other staff from the MEA also were on board. They were Tony Zellers, 49, the project director for MEA’s Eklutna power plant project; Eddie Taunton, 52, safety manager for the utility,
and Tony Izzo, 51, a former Enstar Natural Gas Co. president who is now fuel supply and contract manager for the power plant effort.
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The Cessna 206, piloted by Evan Joe Griffith, 71, crashed while landing at Beluga Lake. MEA Spokesman Kevin Brown said the group came to Homer for a fishing trip.
Passenger Cheryll Heinze, 65 of Anchorage, was critically injured in the
crash. It was initially reported that she was transported to Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage for treatment. But a Trooper spokesman said Heinze succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced deceased at South Peninsula Hospital. Her next of kin has been notified.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause and circumstances of the crash. The plane, once removed from the lake, is now in a Homer hangar.
Wind gusts blew in from the south at about 25 mph or 15 knots, high enough winds that a 25-foot boat was beached on the Homer Spit also last night. The Wave lost power at about 9:30 p.m., and made a call to harbor officials. Deputy Harbormaster Matt Clark said the rescue vessel used by the harbor was unable to respond to aid the boat last night due to adverse wind conditions that would have made a beach landing dangerous. The Wave beached remained below the Mariners’ Memorial this morning.
Now that the plane is recovered, NTSB can begin the investigation into the cause of the crash, said Clint Johnson, director of the NTSB Alaska office.
Heinze had also served as a deputy commissioner for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Gov. Sean Parnell ordered that flags fly at half-mast on Friday in her honor. Heinze, who was an artist and belonged to many organizations including the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, Anchorage Symphony League and Breast Cancer Focus, Inc.

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Posted by on Jul 11th, 2012 and filed under Headline News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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