Soldotna man killed in Sunday plane crash in Kodiak

The wreckage of a plane crash on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021 in Kodiak, Alaska that left one man dead.
The wreckage of a plane crash on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021 in Kodiak, Alaska that left one man dead.(Photo courtesy Dylan Simard/KMXT)
Published: Nov. 7, 2021 at 9:15 PM AKST|Updated: Nov. 8, 2021 at 6:58 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - One man from Soldotna is dead following a plane crash in Kodiak Sunday afternoon near Kodiak College, according to authorities.

The National Transportation Safety Board was scheduled to send two staff to Kodiak on Monday to investigate the crash, according to NTSB Alaska Region Chief Clint Johnson.

Lt. Francis de la Fuente of the Kodiak Police Department said the crash happened around 2 p.m. Sunday across the street from East Elementary School on Benny Benson Drive. The pilot has been identified as 39-year-old Derek Leichliter of Soldotna.

Leichliter had taken off from Kodiak’s airport for a hunting trip to Saltrey Cove, according to de la Fuente, and died at the scene of the crash.

Ben Mohr, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, had known Leichliter for the last three years and had landed in Kodiak for the hunting trip that they were supposed to take together. He spoke to Alaska’s News Source on Monday on his way back to Soldotna.

Leichliter was a board member for the association Mohr runs. Beyond a strong network on the Kenai Peninsula, Mohr said Leichliter made connections and friends all across the state. Kids loved him, and Leichliter could also count among his friends people many years older than himself.

“He made fast friends everywhere he went,” Mohr said. “And you know, whether you were in Juneau or Washington D.C. or Igiugig, he always had a new best pal that he could call up and spend some time with.”

Beyond the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, Leichliter served on a number of different boards and organizations, Mohr said. He was the owner of Legacy Electric, and had done some development work at both the Kenai and Soldotna municipal airports.

“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of Derek Leichliter, following a tragic plane crash in Kodiak,” the Kenai Municipal Airport wrote in a post on its Facebook page. “Derek was a member of our Airport Commission, an Airport Lessee, Airport Electrical Contractor and friend. We are sending condolences to the Leichliter family during this difficult time.”

Leichliter had what Mohr called a “passion for Alaska’s resources.”

“His passion for flying, for healthy fisheries, for hunting and trapping, were huge,” he said. “But they all took second place to his love for his kids.”

Leichliter leaves behind a teen son and a 5-year-old daughter, Mohr said.

“My heart breaks for his family, for his kids,” Mohr said. “And for the many, many people that loved him.”

As executive director of the association Leichliter worked for as a board member, Mohr said he made “huge contributions to the sustainability of our fisheries,” and that he will be deeply missed.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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