Alaska pilot sentenced for lying to accident investigators
(AP) ANCHORAGE – An Alaska pilot convicted of lying to federal investigators after a fatal 2014 crash was sentenced to a 12-month prison term.
Forest Kirst was found guilty of obstructing crash investigations performed by the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board, The Anchorage Daily News reported.
Federal judge Ralph Beistline sentenced Kirst Wednesday to spend a year and a day in prison, followed by three years of probation, and pay a $5,000 fine.
Three Canadian tourists and Kirst were all seriously injured when the August 2014 sightseeing flight crashed after leaving Bettles, 241 miles (388 kilometres) northwest of Fairbanks.
Passenger Darrell Spencer, 66, died just over a month later from injuries sustained in the accident below the Dalton Highway and above a trans-Alaska pipeline maintenance road.
A jury found Kirst not guilty on a federal charge of flying without a valid airman’s certificate, but convicted him in November 2019 on two counts of obstructing the accident investigation. Federal prosecutors said Kirst misled investigators about his altitude and told several different versions about what happened immediately before the crash.
During the sentencing hearing Wednesday, Kirst denied lying to investigators and blamed the crash on a propeller he said was improperly installed and came apart during the flight.
Investigators determined the propeller came off during the crash.
The pilot, Spencer’s widow and the two surviving passengers filed a civil personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit against the company that sold the propeller.
The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed and the group was ordered to pay the company $98,000 in attorney fees.