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URGENT Five Reported Dead As Plane Crashes Short of Runway

December 23, 1987

KENAI, Alaska (AP) _ An commuter airplane lost power in one of its two engines on takeoff today and crashed into a residential area about a half-mile from the runway at Kenai Airport, killing five of the seven people on board, authorities said.

Kenai Police Sgt. Roger Dorcas said two passengers escaped the wreckage of the flight, which was bound for Anchorage. Four passengers and the pilot were reported killed.

Randy Nichols, spokesman at Central Peninsula General Hospital in nearby Soldotna said Donald Spurgeon, 40, hometown unknown, was in guarded condition with burns. Nichols refused to release any information on the other patient.

Both were to be transferred to the burn unit at Providence Hospital in Anchorage, he said.

Witnesses said the plane was wedged in the back of a house, upside down, and the house was on fire. Dorcas said two elderly people were reported in the house at the time of the crash had escaped injury.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Paul Steucke said the pilot of the Southcentral Airlines Piper Navajo reported an engine failure on takeoff. The pilot circled to try to make an emergency landing but fell short of the runway at 6:08 a.m., Steucke said.

Southcentral Airlines suspended operations for the remainder of the day. The commuter line runs numerous flights daily between Anchorage and Kenai Peninsula communities.

A special investigative team from the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, D.C., is en route to Alaska, Steucke said. Jim Michelangelo, the NTSB chief in Alaska, is on his way to Kenai, about 70 miles southwest of Anchorage, Steucke said.

The crash occurred almost exactly one month after a Ryan Air commuter airliner crashed in Homer, killing 18 of the 21 people on board.