Plane crash claims 2 lives — Cessna 180 clips trees, crashes off South Cohoe Loop in Kasilof

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Above, an Alaska State Trooper, the first responder on the scene, looks for survivors in the wreckage of a Cessna 180 that crashed in Kasilof on Saturday. Two people were aboard. There were no survivors. Below, Central Emergency Services firefighters extinguish the fire sparked by the crash at about 8:11 p.m.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Above, an Alaska State Trooper, the first responder on the scene, looks for survivors in the wreckage of a Cessna 180 that crashed in Kasilof on Saturday. Two people were aboard. There were no survivors. Below, Central Emergency Services firefighters extinguish the fire sparked by the crash at about 8:11 p.m.

Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Investigators are trying to discover the cause of a plane crash Saturday night in Kasilof that killed two local men.

Pilot Brian Nolan, 69, and 57-year-old Peter Lahndt, both of Kasilof, died when Nolan’s Cessna 180 crashed into a stand of trees about 150 feet from Cohoe Loop Road, just inland from the bluff over Cook Inlet near the mouth of the Kasilof River. The plane immediately burst into flames. The crash was not survivable, according to an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

The plane went down around 8:11 p.m. Saturday at Mile 3.2 South Cohoe Loop Road, near Powder Keg Avenue. Dan Brown lives across the street and a little to the south of the crash site. He heard the plane throttle up, then crash a second or so later.

“Right after I heard him gun it I heard the impact on the ground. And so I knew it had crashed. It was just really, really quick. In fact at that time I was on the telephone. I said, ‘A plane just crashed I gotta go,’” Brown said.

Brown and two of his daughters jumped in his car and were at the crash site within about two minutes, where they could already see smoke rising from the trees.

“When I got there you could tell where the plane had clipped some spruce trees and where it had to have flipped over because it went into the round tail first from the direction is was coming from. So it hit trees, broke the tops of the trees off and then hit going backwards,” Brown said.

The plane was already on fire and the heat was too intense for Brown to get up to the wreckage.

“I couldn’t get close enough to it. I felt real bad about it (that) I couldn’t get in there. I couldn’t hear anything from them, there was no noise from anybody in the plane. I went around both sides of it trying to get into it and I couldn’t, it was too hot,” he said.

Within about 45 seconds the flames got even more intense.

plane crash four“That fuel really got going and then the whole thing was engulfed in flames and you couldn’t be within about 20 feet of it,” Brown said.

He made about a 50-foot circle around the plane, looking to see if anyone had been thrown from the wreckage. By that time the plane’s tires burst into flames, and Brown started hearing explosions.

“I’m pretty sure they had quite a bit of ammunition on board. It sounded like a war down there,” he said.

He told his daughters to get back to the road while he made another wider loop around the plane, looking for survivors. As he did something hit him in the leg. It was smoldering and left a black mark, but didn’t penetrate the skin. Brown decided he’d better get back to the road, too.

Central Emergency Services and Alaska State Troopers from Soldotna responded to several reports of the downed plane and fire. Traffic on South Cohoe Loop was restricted until about 10:30 p.m. CES had the fire extinguished by about 8:50 p.m.

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‘Something fishy’ — Protesters sign their disapproval of Kenai River Sportfishing Association

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter Demonstrators protesting the Kenai River Sportfishing Association met outside the Soldotna Sports Complex on Thursday evening while participants of the Kenai River Classic held a banquet inside. Protesters also floated with signs outside the riverfront home of founding KRSA member Bob Penney during another Classic event Aug. 19.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter Demonstrators protesting the Kenai River Sportfishing Association met outside the Soldotna Sports Complex on Thursday evening while participants of the Kenai River Classic held a banquet inside. Protesters also floated with signs outside the riverfront home of founding KRSA member Bob Penney during another Classic event Aug. 19.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

The hundred or so people holding signs outside the Soldotna Sports Complex on Thursday afternoon were demonstrating their opposition to the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, which was holding a banquet inside as part of its annual Kenai River Classic fundraiser. But their message wasn’t directed at KRSA. Neither were the similar signs displayed by eight boats and a kayak in front of the riverside home of KRSA founding member Bob Penney on Wednesday evening during another Classic event.

They hoped to reach community members — there were some honks and waves as cars drove by — who might not give fish politics much thought unless an issue is jumping up and wriggling in their face. And they particularly wanted to reach KRSA’s guests — the business executives, industry representatives, politicians and others who come to fish in the Classic and support KRSA with their donations.

“Awareness in our community,” said Dave Athons, a retired Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist and board member of the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition — which organized the demonstration — regarding the purpose of the protest. “And what we would really like to do is have some of the folks that attend the Classic open their eyes and see that the community does not support this organization, and some of the signs point to that. So we would hope that they would question, ‘Why are we spending our money here if we’re really not doing what we think we’re spending our money to do?’”

Participants included private sport anglers, personal-use fishermen and some who don’t even fish much at all. No sportfishing guides were in attendance. Most of the participants had a commercial fishing interest.

“There’s no doubt about it there’s a fair number of commercial fishermen here. It may be the majority. But the Kenai Area Fisherman’s Coalition has no commercial fishermen on their board of directors and they organized this, so they’re getting support from a broad spectrum of people,” said Ken Tarbox, also a retired Fish and Game biologist.

Megan Smith is all of the above.

krsa protest group“We ice fish in the winter and we fish on the river in the fall and we set net during the summer, so I’m just like every other Kenai resident. You’ll find me behind a dip net every once in a while, too,” she said. “I’m a Kenai resident, and I feel like Kenai River Sportfish isn’t a good neighbor. And I feel like, as a Kenai resident, my voice is being drowned out by people who yell a lot louder and have a lot more money than I do.”

Demonstrators’ signs ranged from the obvious — Kenai River Sportfishing Association with a circle and over it — to more nuanced, the variety of messages speaking to the multiple complaints that motivated demonstrators to participate.

“Support Diverse Fisheries” and “We Support Our Set-Netters” references a ballot initiative to ban set nets in urban parts of Alaska — which primarily would gut commercial fishing in Cook Inlet, where there were over 730 active set-net permits in 2015.

“I like to support the diversity of fisheries, I think that’s a real good slogan. I don’t think KRSA represents me or a lot of people on the peninsula,” said Bruce Vadla, a private sport angler. “I’m totally against shutting down the set-netters just for an allocation issue.”

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Kenai River Classic approach to future of fishing — Forum brings together leaders in recreational fishing industry

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks at the Classic Roundtable on National Recreational Fishing put on by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association on Wednesday in Soldotna.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks at the Classic Roundtable on National Recreational Fishing put on by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association on Wednesday in Soldotna.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Don’t let the term “recreational” mislead you, sportfishing is serious business, and panelists at the Classic Roundtable on National Recreational Fishing made the case for it to be taken more seriously in public perception and federal fisheries management.

“We think there’s a pretty compelling case, particularly if you look at economics, as to why we need to elevate the focus on recreational fishing within our federal fisheries management system,” said Mike Leonard, policy director of the American Sportfishing Association. “If you look at finfish harvested in the U.S., there are actually more jobs supported and more of an economic impact by recreational fishing than commercial fishing. However, recreational fishing is only responsible for 2 percent of finfish harvested.”

The roundtable was put on Wednesday at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex by the Kenai River Sportfishing Association as part of its annual Kenai River Classic fundraising event. The panel consisted of various national leaders in the sportfishing community, representing Yamaha Marine, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, Center for Coastal Conservation Board of Directors, American Sportfishing Association, Alaska Oil and Gas Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Coastal Conservation Association.

Alaska’s congressional delegation participated (Sen. Lisa Murkowski in person, with Sen. Dan Sullivan sending his chief of staff, Joe Balash, as Sullivan was unable to attend), and of the 30 or so people in the audience, several were state politicians, though no elected or governmental officials representing the Kenai Peninsula were in attendance.

The two-hour presentations tackled the 20-year future of recreational fishing, with a look at current challenges and how to meet those challenges in the future to ensure that recreational fishing and its contribution to the economy and conservation continue to grow.

Martin Peters, manager of government relations for Yamaha Motor Corp., USA, and moderator of the event, detailed some of that contribution.

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Better than fair — Kenai Peninsula Fair adds new events, entertainment to already-popular format

Photos courtesy of Ed Kobak. The Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs continue to be a favorite of the Kenai Peninsula Fair, held over the weekend in Ninilchik.

Photos courtesy of Ed Kobak. The Kenai Peninsula Racing Pigs continue to be a favorite of the Kenai Peninsula Fair, held over the weekend in Ninilchik.

By Ed Kobak, Redoubt Reporter

A heavy dose of sunshine merely gilded the full slate of fun offerings at the Kenai Peninsula Fair over the weekend.

Music is a draw of the fair, and though there were bands playing all weekend long, it was the atmosphere that brought the listeners to Ninilchik, in keeping with this year’s theme, “Country Nights and Carnival Lights.”

Executive Director Lara McGinnis is continuing her vision of adding new events and entertainment to the perpetual fair favorites, keeping the successful, down-home country feel.

Friday was Kids Day, with free admission for youth with a donation to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. Nearly 400 kids were treated to cotton candy, compliments of the fair. Sunday was Senior Day, with anyone 60 and older getting in for $3, which was a popular draw judging by the long line at the entrance gate.

The first day was also billed as Red Shirt Friday. Everyone wearing that color was invited to the rodeo grounds in the afternoon, where they stood in formation of a heart to honor servicemen and women for their dedication and sacrifice.

The Alaska’s Got Talent performance entertained the lively crowd Friday evening as the night got in full swing with the swelling crowd.

The addition of a midway has been particularly popular, with throngs gravitating to the games and rides all weekend to experience carnival thrills on the Zipper, Flying Swings, Tilt-a-Whirl, Tea Cups, Merry-Go-Round, Super Slide and a Ferris Wheel.

The agriculture and horticulture exhibit areas held to the theme of “Sow It, Grow It, Grow It,” with a variety of displays of vegetables, flowers and more.

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Night Lights: As summer wanes, night’s lights return

Graphic courtesy of Andy Veh.

Graphic courtesy of Andy Veh.

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

We had a great summer with many sunny and warm days, probably not taking a look at the one star that was visible almost every day. That’s a good thing, because at a distance of only 94.5 million miles, it so close that it is just too bright — our sun.

Now that nighttime has increased appreciably, a lot more stars can be seen and safely viewed. They’re much farther than our sun, at distances of 50 trillion miles and more, so they appear as small and more or less faint (or bright) points of light when compared with the sun.

During late evenings last month some prominent bright stars, such as Arcturus, Vega, Deneb and Altair, were already visible. Now it’s easy to find constellations, such as the Big Dipper low in the northwest. Take the distance between the Big Dipper’s last two stars and extend it five times towards the zenith (the point straight up) and you get to Polaris, the North Star, which is a semibright star at the end of the Little Dipper’s handle. It also marks our latitude on the Kenai Peninsula at 60 degrees above the northern horizon.

Next, find the constellation Cassiopeia, in the shape of a W, on the other side of the Little Dipper, high in the northeast. High in the sky, as well, almost in the zenith, is Cygnus, the swan (it also looks like a cross). Its brightest star, Deneb, connects with two other bright stars, Vega and Altair, in the constellations Lyra, the harp, and Aquila, the eagle. Together they make up the prominent summer triangle.

Just left of that is the Great Square of Pegasus, high in the southeast. Turning to the west we can see bright red Arcturus setting, a sign that summer is over. It can also be found by following the Big Dipper’s handle’s arc.

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Plugged In: Rebooted lenses worth another look

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Six or seven years ago, Japanese after-market optics maker Sigma had a deservedly poor reputation for mediocre lenses which, if not exactly good, were at least affordable. Fast forward to 2015 and the emergence of Sigma as one of the three or four best lens makers in the world.

Between 2012 and 2015, Sigma introduced a wide variety of greatly improved optical designs, prograde construction and quality control that’s among the best in the industry. Despite the considerable upgrade in versatility and quality, Sigma’s lenses remain relatively affordable yet routinely exceed the optical performance and construction quality of more expensive comparable lenses made by name brands like Zeiss, Canon and Nikon.

Sigma now matters to every photographer using an interchangeable-lens camera because it’s becoming the first and best choice when upgrading from the inexpensive kit lens that usually ships with an interchangeable-lens camera. Most newer Sigma lens designs are made in a variety of lens mounts to natively fit nearly every popular camera brand. That makes a comparative discussion easy because variations of the same basic lens can be purchased to natively fit many different cameras.

Our discussion this week is limited to the newest Sigma designs. Older models remain as mediocre as ever. If you’re not sure, check online reviews of the exact name of the lens, omitting no groups or letters. The naming difference between old and new Sigma lenses is subtle, at best, so be careful that you’re getting the newest models. Generally, the more recent models are optically stabilized and thus include an “OS” grouping in the longer name.

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Hunting 2015: Ready, set, wait to start — New regs postpone peninsula general season to September

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. New regulations delayed the general hunting season until September on the Kenai Peninsula this year, but the qualifications for a legal moose remain the same.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. New regulations delayed the general hunting season until September on the Kenai Peninsula this year, but the qualifications for a legal moose remain the same.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

Before hunters set their sights on the upcoming season, they should direct their eyes to hunting regulations, because some have changed this year.

First and foremost, the season dates have changed. Instead of the general season running from Aug. 20 to Sept. 20, the general season now opens Sept. 1 and closes Sept. 25. The archery-only general season in Game Management Units 15A and 15B also is later this year, from Aug. 22 to 29.

But the requirement for legal bulls remains the same for the general moose hunt in GMUs 7 and 15 (which encompass the entire peninsula). A bull must have a spike on one side, have antlers with at least four brow tines on one side, or have an antler spread of 50 inches or greater.

“There was confusion over what a spike and a fork were and we had a lot with a fork on one side and more than a fork on the other. It’s only legal if it has a spike on one side. If it has two forks it’s not a spike-fork, it’s a fork-fork. People need to really be sure what they’ve got in front of them before they pull that trigger,” said Jeff Selinger, area management biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

In GMUs 7 and 15, antlers must be sealed within 10 days of taking the animal. This can be done during business hours at Fish and Game offices in Soldotna, Homer or Anchorage, or at an Alaska State Trooper Division of Wildlife office by appointment.

“The other big change to the moose hunt season is that the Homer cow hunt, DM 549, will also be shifted to Oct. 20 through Nov. 20, rather than running from Aug. 20 to Sept. 20,” Selinger said.

Selinger said he was optimistic that hunting a little later in the year would yield extra opportunities. Last season, 1,350 hunters took to the field and several of them came home with meat for the freezer.

In GMU 15C, the bulk of which encompasses the Homer and Caribou Hills areas, 128 bulls were taken last year, as well as 18 females in the Homer cow hunt. Since it has been several years since the more than 55,000-acre wildfire of 2007, some areas are regenerating in a way that will help moose.

“We should see some benefits there. A lot of the area came back grass, but a lot of areas had good willow regeneration,” Selinger said.

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