Pilot in fatal 2014 Atigun Pass crash convicted of lying to investigators
The pilot in the fatal 2014 Atigun Pass plane crash has been convicted in federal court for lying to investigators about his altitude before the crash.
According to a press release from U.S. Attorney for Alaska Bryan Schroder's office, Forest M. Kirst, 62, of Fairbanks, was convicted Monday of two counts of obstruction of proceedings before federal agencies.
Kirst was piloting a Ryan Navion plane for Kirst Aviation on Aug. 24, 2014 near Atigun Pass carrying three Canadian tourists who were on a one-day sightseeing trip before starting an Alaska cruise. The release states Kirst left Bettles and flew too low over infrastructure.
Kirst lied to investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration when he stated in an interview with NTSB officials that he was flying at a higher altitude, despite what the GPS evidence showed.
"After circling over a moose in a pond, the airplane lacked the power and altitude to clear Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range," Schroder's office says. "The airplane crashed on the side of the mountain below the Dalton Highway and above a pipeline maintenance road."
Kirst lied in his testimony during FAA administrative hearings when he said his plane dropped in altitude by about 1,500 feet just before hitting the mountain.
Officials say there were several people working nearby on the highway and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline who responded to the crash. All three passengers were seriously injured and one man died just over a month later from his injuries.
Kirst is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 20. He faces a sentence up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both. Schroder's office says Kirst's sentence will be based on the seriousness of his offenses and prior criminal history, if any.
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