O’Hara, 41, was killed on Friday, December 20, when his plane went down on
the tundra east of Upper Ugashik Lake. His passenger, Corey Adler, 30, a
biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service, survived the crash and is
hospitalized in Anchorage in stable condition. The two flew out of King
Salmon on Thursday to conduct a moose tracking survey in Alaska Peninsula NWR.
|When they failed to return
in accordance with their flight plan, the Rescue Coordination Center
dispatched an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 and a Coast Guard UH-60
helicopter to search for them. At first light on Friday, fourteen single-engine aircraft and a
helicopter flew out of King Salmon in search efforts coordinated by
the NPS, Fish and Wildlife Service and Alaska State Troopers. Most
were piloted by volunteers and friends of Tom, who was a life-long
resident of the Bristol Bay area. The crash site was found late in
the afternoon, and Adler was evacuated to Naknek. A joint
investigation is being conducted by state troopers and officials from
NTSB, FAA and OAS.
Tom O’Hara had logged over 11,000 hours as a pilot in command. He had
a dozen years of service as a commercial pilot in the Bristol area,
and had provided aerial support for Katmai and Lake Clark NP’s,
Alagnak Wild River, Aniakchak NM, and other Department of Interior
Tom was a dedicated employee, son, husband, father, and community member.
His passions were his family, flying, and stewardship of the resources and
lifestyle of rural Alaska. Tom was active in his community of Naknek-King
Salmon where he grew up. He was the assistant wrestling coach for the
junior high and high school team, and was active in his church at all
levels, most notably flying children to bible camps. His co-workers
describe him as energetic and exuberant. He provided a strong link between
the residents of Bristol Bay and the National Park Service which will be
missed. Tom is survived by his wife, Lucy, and their three young children.