Two close-knit South Carolina families are dead after the plane they were riding in crashed shortly after takeoff, bringing their Alaskan vacation to a tragic and devastating end. The four members of the McManus family and the five members of the Antonakos family died Sunday along with their pilot, Walter “Willie” Rediske, when the plane crashed and burst into flames at an airport about seventy-five miles southwest of Anchorage. All ten people aboard the de Havilland DH3 were killed.
The crash occurred right at the last leg of a long-awaited vacation. The two families were so close that many assumed their children were brothers and sisters. They decided this year they would take a ten-day adventure together into the Alaskan wilderness. Milton Antonakos, aka Melet, and Chris McManus, the two fathers, met just as they were beginning their families. Their families spent time together on a South Carolina lake and attended the same church. Chris McManus was a radiologist and his wife, Stacey, loved teaching Vacation Bible School. Melet Antonakos sold computer software to doctors and his wife, Kim, spent much of her time volunteering at the children’s school. Reverend Harrison McLeod comforted the families’ congregation by stating, “These were good people, some of the best people you would want to know.”
The flight was planned to leave from Soldotna, Alaska and travel to Chinitna Bay, where the families would visit a remote bear-viewing lodge. National Transportation Safety Board member Earl Weener said Tuesday that the plane, which seats up to eleven, landed more than 2,300 feet from the departure point and 88 feet off the right side of the runway. There is no surveillance footage of the crash and no witnesses have yet come forward. The Soldotna airport did not have a control tower, which is common at small airports, where pilots communicate directly with each other. Firefighters arrived on scene shortly after the accident and it took them ten minutes to put out the flames. The NTSB is currently investigating the cause of the accident by looking at five cell phones recovered at the scene and a flight tracking device in the plane. Since 1975, there have been nine fatal crashes in Alaska involving de Havilland Otter planes. One of those crashes killed former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens and four others in 2010. Sunday’s crash brings the death toll from these crashes to thirty.
2 close-knit SC families die in Alaska plane crash, www.miamiherald.com July 9, 2013
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