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(DILLINGHAM, ALASKA) On Thursday March 15, 2018, Superior Court Judge Christina Reigh sentenced 38-year-old Benjamin Hancock to a $25,000 fine, probation, and restitution following his guilty plea to felony Assault in the Third Degree. The assault charge stemmed from Hancock’s actions in a June 2014 incident on the Mulchatna River in which he struck a boater in the head with the float of a plane he was piloting. The boater suffered extensive, permanent brain damage.
The Alaska State Troopers investigated the incident and learned that it happened while Hancock and another pilot were accompanying the victim and another boater as they moved skiffs on the Mulchatna River. Hancock told investigators he had experienced a down draft during takeoff, but other witnesses said Hancock had “buzzed” the victim, flying deliberately and dangerously low over him. Captain Scott Quist, a veteran pilot with the Alaska Wildlife Troopers, reviewed GPS data from Hancock’s flight and testified that it showed Hancock could have been well above the victim when the incident occurred.
At the sentencing hearing, Judge Reigh explained that she considered this type of reckless flying a serious problem in rural Alaska. She noted that the victim and his family had their lives dramatically altered by Hancock’s reckless actions, and she hoped that Hancock’s conviction, probation, and fine would send a message to other pilots that there would be serious consequences if they engaged in similarly reckless conduct.