Alaska pilot sentenced in 2014 plane crash near Atigun Pass

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 2:03 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A 63-year-old Alaska pilot was sentenced to serve one year and one day in federal prison, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release, following a plane crash near Atigun Pass in 2014.

Forest Kirst was sentenced Wednesday following a crash that left three Canadian tourists seriously hurt. One of the tourists died over a month later as a result of his injuries.

On Aug. 24, 2014, Kirst was piloting a plane for a one-day sightseeing excursion. A news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office says Kirst left Bettles, Alaska, and began flying too low to the ground. After circling over a moose in a pond, the airplane wasn’t able to get higher and clear Atigun Pass in the Brooks Range. The airplane crashed on the side of the mountain below the Dalton Highway and above a pipeline maintenance road.

Witnesses were able to respond quickly.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration investigated the crash, resulting in Kirst’s airman certificate revoked by the FAA.

In November of 2019, Kirst was convicted by a federal jury of two counts of obstruction of proceedings before a federal agency.

“In addition, as a condition of his supervised release, Kirst is not permitted to pilot a commercial aircraft during the term of his supervised release,” the news release reads. “Furthermore, he is not permitted to accept employment or be self-employed in any capacity as an aircraft mechanic without prior United States Probation approval.”

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