Pilot in Fatal 2014 Atigun Pass Crash Convicted of Obstruction

The Atigun Pass crash site. Image-NTSB

The Atigun Pass crash site. Image-NTSB

It was announced by Department of Justice Attorney Bryan Schroder on Wednesday that the pilot involved in the fatal August 24th, 2014 Atigun Pass crash was convicted by a trial jury on charges of Obstruction for lying to federal investigators looking into the cause of the crash.

62-year-old Forest Kirst, owner of Kirst Aviation crashed his aircraft, Ryan Navion with three Canadian sightseers who were taking part in an Alaskan cruise. Prior to the crash, Kirst had been circling low over a moose in a pond before turning toward the pass in an attempt to make it through. He crashed into the side of the mountain just above the pipeline maintenance road near the Dalton Highway.

Kirst, and his three passengers were seriously injured in the crash. One of the three passengers would die a month later from his injuries. Fortunately, all were rescued by a crew working maintenance on the pipeline road and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

Kirst would tell FAA and NTSB investigators that while attempting to traverse the pass, he had been flying at an adequate altitude but encountered a downdraft and lost 1,500 feet prior to the crash. But, evidence garnered from the aircraft’s GPS would show that Kirst had been flying substantially lower and lacked the power to climb to a safe altitude.

As a result of his conviction, Kirst is scheduled to be sentenced on February 20th, 2020 and faces a maximum of five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.