Soldotna residents come to aid of sunken plane

Jun 12, 2019

A trio of Soldotna residents helped fish something much more exciting than a fish out of East Mackey Lake on Tuesday — a Maule MX-7 single-engine plane on wheeled landing gear that crashed into the water.

Bill Dawley was working with his father-in-law, Randy Rodgers, at Rodgers’ home on the southwest end of the lake when they heard sirens from Central Emergency Services drive by a little after 11 a.m.

Dawley didn’t think much of it at the time and made a quick trip down the road to his house. When he got back, his mother-law said Rogers had taken Dawley’s boat out on the lake to help with a crashed plane.

Vincent Spady, age 72, of Soldotna, was the pilot and only occupant of the plane, which he owns. He ended up in the water on the northeast end of the lake. Spady was able to get himself out of the plane and start swimming to shore. Alvin Pierce, another resident of East Mackey, paddled out in a kayak to help Spady out of the water. Dawley says Spady was in dry clothes by the time he got there.

“The pilot, he self recused when he landed in the water,” Dawley said. “I think he got out before the plane was fully submerged, in fact he got out of the plane on his own and started swimming to shore. I think he swam to shore with his cell phone up in the air with one arm trying to keep it dry, so he got out pretty quick on his own.”

The plane was still upright in the water, though submerged. Rogers and Dawley towed it to the south end of the lake with Dawley’s 20-foot Northriver and 50-horse motor. It was slow going.

“It was fairly buoyant at that time. And then, by the time we got about halfway, the lake is shallow enough that I think the nose or the wheels were probably touching bottom a bit. It took us a couple hours to tow it — I mean, it’s a waterlogged airplane so it didn’t want to pull too easy,” Dawley said. “A couple hours later we got to a point where we had it close enough to the beach we just ran a bunch of line out to it, hooked it to the tail wheel and hooked it to a pickup truck on the beach and just slowly drug it all the way back to the beach up on a guy’s boat launch. It was pretty much the full distance of East Mackey. He augured in pretty much on the very north end of Mackey, we towed it to the very southeast corner of Mackey.”

Dawley says that Spady was in the boat with them and seemed uninjured.

“Other than he was a little shook up, but I didn’t see any obvious injures. He was pretty bummed out but he seemed to be doing fine,” Dawley said. “As far as I know he just lost track of what he was doing. He was headed to East Makey to land on the gravel strip there and was intending on going and putting his floats on, and when he got over there he just, like I said, lost track of what he was doing and set down on the lake there like he had floats on, and didn’t.”

Spady is a retired teacher, a volunteer with Arctic Barnabas Ministries and an air tanker base manager for the Alaska Division of Forestry. He did not return a call seeking comment for this story by KDLL’s news deadline Wednesday.