Plane crash mystery; Wasilla man searches for answers

Published: Sep. 21, 2017 at 4:00 PM AKDT
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Kevin Tubbs of Wasilla and his buddies have gone fishing in the same spot of the Chuit River, 11 miles outside of Tyonek, for almost 30 years.

About 10 years ago, they started spotting small pieces of metal in the river. "This year, we started finding much larger pieces" Tubbs said."Obviously polished rivets and aluminum manufacture, and so that made us wonder what is it we found."

Tubbs and his friends suspected they had found wreckage from a plane crash, but he couldn't find any record of one in that area. "So, we thought it's a real mystery. We found an airplane that nobody had put a dot on the map for."

Tubbs was determined to solve that mystery, because if it was the wreckage of a plane that had vanished and never been found, he wanted to bring peace to the pilot's family.

"Closure is important to a family, and when you find an airplane that has no record of loss, that could help somebody find out 'whatever happened to uncle Don', you know?"

Tubbs recently turned to the Rescue Coordination Center at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson for help. He says Master Sgt. Gailanne Paculba dug through old records, and found a report of a crash of an F-89 fighter jet, back in 1955, a few miles from where Tubbs and his friends fish.

Tubbs searched the internet and found the story of an F-89 pilot who ejected from his plane. "He wrote that he landed in Cook Inlet, so he must have landed in the water and the airplane continued on" Tubbs said. "We're not sure what happened, but (the plane) continued on for about 14 miles upstream, to near the place where we go fishing every year and crashed, and that was in 1955."

Officials at JBER say while they are not disputing Tubbs conclusions, they can't say for sure if the metal Tubbs and his friends found actually came from that military plane.

"Our office did go out to the Heritage Airpark on base to take a look at a static aircraft (F-89) on a stand and visually, there are similar panels" wrote TSGT Joshua Jasper in an email, "but we cannot say with any degree of certainty that what this gentleman has found is indeed parts of that aircraft that crashed in 1955."

Jasper also said there are records of two non-military plane crashes in the same general area.

JBER officials say they are appreciative of Tubbs' efforts to solve the mystery, and they are willing to help if more information becomes available.

Kevin Tubbs says "if it's not (the F-89), the mystery continues...but I think it's a pretty good chance."