Plane crash survivor improves in Seattle

The seriously injured survivor of a Lynn Canal plane crash is rapidly recovering in Seattle, her family said Tuesday, as the National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the cause of the crash continues.

On Tuesday, Sylvia Hess, sister of Martha Mackowiak, said Mackowiak could be released from the intensive-care unit of Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center as soon as that day.

Michael Mackowiak was the pilot of the Cessna 180 that crashed into Lynn Canal near Eldred Rock on Nov. 4. He said the other people on board — himself and two juveniles — are doing well.

“Other than saying ‘That’s just way too close,’ we’re doing pretty good,” he said by phone from Harborview, where he is monitoring Martha’s care.

“I grew up in Alaska and have been in small airplanes all my life,” he said. “I’ve never been in this.”

One week ago, Mackowiak was flying from Juneau to Haines when the motor of the single-engine Cessna lost power.

According to the preliminary accident report completed by the NTSB on Monday, Mackowiak noticed the Cessna’s fuel gauges were operating incorrectly as the plane flew past Eagle Beach.

He told investigators he had filled the plane’s wing-mounted fuel tanks before takeoff, but the gauges showed empty on both tanks. As he tapped the gauges, the right tank increased between 1/4 and 3/8 full.

“Convinced of an electrical malfunction, the flight continued towards Haines,” the NTSB report states. “Shortly thereafter, the engine lost all power.”

Mackowiak tried pumping the engine primer — which injects fuel directly into the engine’s cylinders — but while the propeller’s speed increased, the engine didn’t fully start.

He started searching for a safe place to land, but the beaches near Eldred Rock are stony, and he elected to ditch in the water just offshore. As the plane descended, Mackowiak’s mayday calls were picked up by a passing Alaska Seaplanes aircraft, which passed the message to Juneau.

During the ditching, the airplane nosed over, ending upside-down in the water. Mackowkiak’s foot was briefly caught in the airplane, but he and the plane’s passengers made it onto the plane’s wing before it began to sink.

They were in the water for 10 or 15 minutes before reaching shore, the NTSB investigation found.

A Temsco helicopter pulled all four from the beach and delivered three to the airport, where they were subsequently taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital. Martha Mackowiak, the most seriously injured, was taken directly to the hospital and subsequently medevaced to Seattle.

In an email, Michael Mackowiak said Martha’s heart stopped during the ordeal and everyone suffered cuts and scratches. “I ended up with a little bit of frostbite on my right foot” after losing a shoe, he said.

In an email, he said he wanted to thank everyone involved in the rescue — medical teams at Bartlett and Harborview, the firefighters who performed CPR on Martha, and the helicopter crews involved.

“We are overwhelmed with the exceeding kindness and compassion our friends have shown us,” he wrote.

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Dec. 3

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Dec. 6

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Mountain reflections are seen from the Mendenhall Wetlands. (Courtesy Photo / Denise Carroll)
Wild Shots: Photos of Mother Nature in Alaska

Superb reader-submitted photos of wildlife, scenery and/or plant life.

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire 
At Wednesday evening’s special Assembly meeting, the Assembly appropriated nearly $4 million toward funding a 5.5% wage increase for all CBJ employees along with a 5% increase to the employer health contribution. According to City Manager Rorie Watt, it doesn’t necessarily fix a nearly two decade-long issue of employee retention concerns for the city.
City funds wage increase amid worker shortage

City Manager says raise doesn’t fix nearly two decade-long issue of employee retainment

People and dogs traverse the frozen surface Mendenhall Lake on Monday afternoon. Officials said going on to any part of Mendenhall Lake can open up serious risks for falling into the freezing waters. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Officials warn residents about the dangers of thin ice on Mendenhall Lake

Experts outline what to do in the situation that someone falls through ice

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Dec. 3

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Molly Yazwinski holds a 3,000-year-old moose skull with antlers still attached, found in a river on Alaska’s North Slope. Her aunt, Pam Groves, steadies an inflatable canoe. (Courtesy Photo /Dan Mann)

 

2. A 14,000-year-old fragment of a moose antler, top left, rests on a sand bar of a northern river next to the bones of ice-age horses, caribou and muskoxen, as well as the horns of a steppe bison. Photo by Pam Groves.

 

3. Moose such as this one, photographed this year near Whitehorse in the Yukon, may have been present in Alaska as long as people have. Photo by Ned Rozell.
Alaska Science Forum: Ancient moose antlers hint of early arrival

When a great deal of Earth’s water was locked up within mountains… Continue reading

FILE - Freight train cars sit in a Norfolk Southern rail yard on Sept. 14, 2022, in Atlanta. The Biden administration is saying the U.S. economy would face a severe economic shock if senators don't pass legislation this week to avert a rail worker strike. The administration is delivering that message personally to Democratic senators in a closed-door session Thursday, Dec. 1.  (AP Photo / Danny Karnik)
Congress votes to avert rail strike amid dire warnings

President vows to quickly sign the bill.

Most Read