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'Heard a big ‘Whoosh’ and the power went out.' Witness describes moment of crash

'Heard a big ‘Whoosh’ and the power went out.' Witness describes moment of crash

Image by Scotty Smith/ KTUU
I don't own rights to this image. It was originally published with this story on ktuu.com

10:30 P.M. UPDATE:

Just before sundown Tuesday, contractors worked to sweep up broken glass that had fallen four stories from the Brady Building after it was struck by a small plane earlier this morning.

Windows in the building were boarded up with plywood and the sprinkler system under the Carr Gottstein building appeared to be under repair following heat damage from the crash.

Surveillance cameras pointing in the direction of the Gottstein building were offline after the power outage, according to an employee of the Antique Gallery. The crash itself was not captured on its cameras.

12:30 P.M. UPDATE: FBI confirm that pilot was only person on plane; no one on the ground was injured

Pilot First Lt. Doug Demarest was the only person on board the plane at the time of the crash, Tuesday morning, according to FBI spokeswoman Staci Feger-Pellessier. No one on the ground was injured in the crash.

FBI officials stressed that Demarest had no military connections and was strictly a Civil Air Patrolman.

Neither the Brady Building nor the Carr Gottstein building incurred structural damage but there was some cosmetic damage, Feger-Pellessier wrote.

Snow City Café cook Vincent Maiorano was in the kitchen of the popular 4th Avenue restaurant when the plane struck.

“Around 6:15, 6:20 (a.m.) we heard a big ‘Whoosh’ and the power went out,” Maiorano said. He headed outside with five others and saw the plane aready on fire.

"(The flames) started small and then it got big. Really big. The flames were going at least 15 feet up the building and later I guess there was a gas leak because they spread at least 20 feet across the parking lot,” he said.

Gov. Bill Walker told KTUU that he learned of the crash at about 7 a.m. and went to see the extent of the damage. The chief National Transportation Safety Board investigator briefed him at that time but Walker declined to say what he was told about the crash.

Few people were in the building, which includes state offices and law offices, at the time.

“If it had been a couple of hours later, it could have had a different outcome," Walker said.

The governor offered his condolences for the loss of life. Asked what he thought of the scene in Downtown Anchorage, Walker said, "We all have memories of 911. It was a little eerie."

Image by Scotty Smith/ KTUU. I don't own rights to this image. It was originally published with this story on ktuu.com

Image by Scotty Smith/ KTUU.
I don't own rights to this image. It was originally published with this story on ktuu.com

11:30 A.M. UPDATE: Civil Air Patrol names pilot

The Civil Air Patrol has identified the pilot involved in today's deadly plane crash into a Downtown Anchorage office building as First Lt. Doug Demarest.

"The pilot was not authorized to fly the aircraft," the Civil Air Patrol said in a statement from the non-profit's national headquarters. The organization is the volunteer auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.

The Cessna 172S that struck the Brady building, which houses the state Attorney General's office among other offices, is owned by the Civil Air Patrol.

One person died in the crash. Police have not publicly identified the deceased. The Civil Air Patrol identified Demarest as the pilot of the plane. There is no indication anyone else was on board.

Demarest joined the Civil Air Patrol in 2010, according to the organization.

11 A.M. UPDATE: FBI joins investigation

"We have no reason to believe that this was terrorist related," FBI spokeswoman Staci Feger-Pellessier said of the fatal plane crash today in Downtown Anchorage.

The FBI is working with the National Transportation Safety Board in a joint investigation of the crash.

Anchorage police say 4th Avenue has reopened while 3rd Avenue from K to L streets remained closed as of 11:10 a.m.

UPDATE: Investigators describe details of early morning crash

One person is dead Tuesday morning in a fiery plane crash in Downtown Anchorage. A single-engine plane owned by the Civil Air Patrol struck the Brady Building on 4th Avenue and L Street, officials said.

The plane hit the Brady Building at 6:18 a.m., said Clint Johnson, Alaska chief for the National Transportation Safety Board. Pieces of the small aircraft then struck the adjacent building and a blew a transformer.

The Brady building is six stories and houses the Alaska state Attorney General offices, among other offices. There are no reports of any injuries to occupants of the building.

The cause of the crash is not immediately known.

"Obviously we have high winds in the area, but we're also looking beyond that," Clint Johnson said.

"The airplane entered from over the Inlet inbound and struck the building," he said.

Johnson said the downed plane appeared to be a Civil Air Patrol aircraft, a fact confirmed by the national spokeswoman for the organization, which is a volunteer, civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.

Police spoke with the Civil Air Patrol and learned there were no sanctioned flights by the organization at the time of the crash, Johnson said.

A spokeswoman for the organization declined to answer questions Tuesday morning but said she was preparing a statement that would address questions about the apparently unsanctioned flight.

Officials have not publicly identified the pilot and investigators have not been able to determine the type of the aircraft because of fire and impact damage, Johnson said.

The closest weather observation point is Merrill Field airport, where winds were blowing at 9 mph with gusts of 21 mph just before 6 a.m., said National Weather Service meteorologist Rebecca Dulle. Visibility was more than 10 miles, she said.

Image by Scotty Smith/ KTUU I don't own rights to this image. It was originally published with this story on ktuu.com

Image by Scotty Smith/ KTUU
I don't own rights to this image. It was originally published with this story on ktuu.com

A man who works in the Brady Building said two colleagues were in the building at the time of the crash but were not hurt.

Police closed the areas of 4th Avenue and L Street and West of 3rd Avenue and I Street as authorities responded to the crash. Municipal Light & Power reported outages in area, with electrical crews beginning to restore power as of 8:45 a.m.

The state of Alaska announced an emergency office closure for the building and neighboring 310 K St.

Gov. Bill Walker visited the scene this morning but was not in the one of the buildings when the plane struck, a spokeswoman said. Walker declined an interview.

The Department of Law has approximately 290 employees spread between the two buildings, said Kaci Shroeder, a special assistant to the attorney general. The employees work in the criminal and civil divisions as well as the attorney general’s office and the Department’s Administrative Services Division.

One Department of Law employee was entering the 310 K Street building at approximately 6:15 a.m. when the crash happened. The employee was not injured, Schroeder said.

Employees who are unable to work today due to this situation will be placed on administrative leave, Schroeder said.

Seven Department of Corrections employees work at the K Street offices, said Corrections spokeswoman Sherrie Daigle. "None of our employees were in the building at the time of the crash. The employees have been placed on administrative leave for the day."

ORIGINAL STORY:

A small plane crashed into a building in Downtown Anchorage, police have tweeted on their public information handle.

The plane crashed into a building at 1031 W 4th Avenue.

The areas of 4th Avenue and L Street and West of 3rd Avenue and I Street have been closed as authorities respond to the crash.

Municipal Light and Power tweeted from their public information handle there has been a power outage near the 4th and L Street.

Channel 2 has a crew en route.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Tulsi Patil, Kyle Hopkins and Paula Dobbyn contributed to this story.

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