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.
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.