Two South Carolina families among 10 dead in Alaska plane crash

The coincidence was tragic: It was the second Alaska plane crash that killed somebody from Christ Church Episcopal in Greenville, S.C., in little more than a week.

A De Havilland DHC-3 Otter air taxi crashed on takeoff Sunday from an airport in Soldotna, Alaska, on its way to Bear Mountain Lodge on Chinitna Bay about 75 miles away.

Aboard were two families from the church, parents with their kids, acquaintances and a church official said: Melet, Kim, Olivia, Mills and Ana Antonakos; and Chris, Stacey, Meghan and Connor McManus. The children’s ages reportedly ranged from 11 to 17.

Everyone died, including the pilot, Walter Rediske of Nikiski, Alaska -- making the crash deadlier than that of the Asiana Airlines 777 at San Francisco International Airport a day earlier.

Authorities had yet to confirm the identities of the dead as of Tuesday afternoon, a spokesman for the Soldotna Police Department told the Los Angeles Times.


The church also lost a parishioner to an Alaska crash on June 28, according to John D. Ellenberg, 74, of Simpsonville, S.C., whose plane reportedly went down near Summit Lake.

“It is with a profound sense of sadness that I write to share with you the news of another tragic loss in our Christ Church family,” the Rev. Harrison McLeod of Christ Church Episcopal wrote to parishioners Tuesday.

“Both families were very involved in the life of our church and will be missed more than words can convey,” McLeod wrote. “Our parish prayers are with their extended families, their friends and our entire church family.”

The close-knit families had embarked on a 10-day Alaska adventure together, according to the Associated Press.

The families had chartered the turboprop, which crashed and burned with its right wing and nose tilted down almost 90 feet to the right of the runway, officials with the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.

Figuring out what caused the crash may prove difficult. There apparently were no witnesses, and the Otter did not have modern avionics equipment -- such as a so-called black box -- that officials typically use to reconstruct a crash involving larger planes.

NTSB investigators collected five cellphones from the families in hope that the data may yield clues.

Investigators will remain in Alaska for the rest of the week but will not issue a determination on why the plane crashed until a full report is issued, probably in several months, NTSB official Earl F. Weener said.


Federal judge blocks new Wisconsin abortion restrictions

Hotshot firefighters to be memorialized today at Arizona service

Forensic expert: Trayvon Martin shot leaning over George Zimmerman