ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A National Transportation Safety Board report released Friday offers some insight into what may have caused the plane crash last year that killed well-known Alaska wolf biologist Gordon Haber.
The NTSB hasn't identified a cause of the crash yet, but the report includes information about the plane's maintenance and pilot Daniel McGregor's record.
Haber died in a plane crash in Denali National Park on Oct. 14, 2009. McGregor was severely burned but survived after a solo trek to find help.
“He was just all scuffed up and dirty -- he just walked 20 miles in the last two days by himself, with no food or water,” said Nick Rodrick, one of the two hikers whom McGregor found.
McGregor and Haber were tracking and photographing wolves in the park when McGregor says they hit a downdraft and crashed into a ridgeline.
McGregor says he blacked out and woke up when the plane burst into flames. He yelled for Haber to get out and tried to reach in and save him, but the flames drove him away.
The NTSB report notes that severe turbulence, icing and low-level wind shear existed in the area at the time of the crash. While McGregor had logged 4,400 hours of overall flight time, 55 hours were in a Cessna 185, the type of plane that crashed.
The report also noted that the plane and engine were likely in good condition prior to the crash, but was equipped with an outdated analog emergency locator transmitter that did not transmit a signal. Officials are asking pilots to upgrade to more expensive digital transmitters, in an effort to prevent similar situations.
Colleagues say Alaska wolves lost an advocate that day.
“Definitely Gordon was a champion of wolves, and he went the extra mile bringing facts to the public and to help educate people,” said Wade Willis with the Science Now! Project. “There's very few people that will dedicate 110 percent of their life to that goal -- there are very few like him.”
Colleagues say Haber focused his research on wolf behavior, which is hard for biologists to do now because tight funding keeps them from spending large amounts of time in the field.
Contact Jackie Bartz at email@example.com