by Maria Downey
2:26 AM AKDT, August 13, 2010
Ron Duncan, CEO of telecommunications company GCI, is speaking out Friday about this week’s deadly crash near Dillingham. GCI owned the plane which crashed Monday and killed five people Monday, including former Sen. Ted Stevens.
Because of the ongoing National Transportation Safety Board investigation, Duncan can not talk about specifics of the crash. He says that GCI has flown all of the victims’ families to Alaska, and is doing all it can to accommodate their needs.
Duncan also said the loss goes far beyond those at GCI who lost executive Dana Tindall along with her daughter, Corey Tindall, in the crash.
From the outside, GCI appears to be conducting business as usual -- but inside, it’s a very different story.
“We are still grieving intensely here as we are try to come to grips with this,” Duncan said. “All of the people involved were very special and very dear to us.”
Emotions are still raw as Duncan talks about the events leading up to the crash, during a fishing trip to a GCI lodge that was quite enjoyable despite cold and wet weather.
“We had several good days of fishing, a number of really good poker games -- we fed the senator some good wine, and it was a very, very good week,” Duncan said.
But with the report of a possible crash just hours later, the outing took a turn still too tragic to comprehend.
“We then initiated calls to fellow air taxi operators in the area and flight service, saying we had a missing airplane, alert people to start looking for it. My wife ran back to the cabin and grabbed all the medical supplies -- we hopped into my airplane and we started to search,” Duncan said.
“We saw an arm wave next to the airplane and we knew there were survivors -- my wife immediately said, ‘I need to be on the ground there,’” Duncan said. “I told Tom (Tucker, owner of Tucker Aviation), I said, ‘I have a doctor on board, meet me either on the water or Aleknagik and I'll give you the doc and the gear.’ I landed on the strip at Aleknagik, and Tom took my wife and all the medical gear and put her in the helicopter and took her to the site.”
Duncan’s wife, Dr. Dani Bowman, tended to the injured after a treacherous hike down a steep, slippery slope.
“And then I spent the night in Dillingham essentially attempting to coordinate the rescue opportunities,” Duncan said. “I would be remiss if I didn't express substantial thanks to the state and the federal authorities -- one of my first calls when I got to Dillingham was to Governor Parnell. I told him what happened, he immediately offered to put all the resources of state at our availability.”
Even with the backup, those lost in the crash was a great blow to the Duncans: Tindall and her daughter; Bill Phillips, a former Stevens aide; their neighbor, pilot Terry Smith; and of course, longtime family friend Stevens. Duncan is trying to hang on to the memories of joy before the loss.
“We were having a great time -- we were engaging in the usual half-the-night poker parties which were intense battles over insignificant amounts of money, although we will note that at the risk divulging a little bit of personal information, that Corey Tindall did clean up the first night and wiped out the whole table at poker,” Duncan said. “I will also note on the last night, as we were playing, we were playing 7-card and the senator was dealing, and he dealt himself a royal flush.”
Funeral arrangements have been made for Dana and Corey Tindall. Corey's service will be held at 3 p.m. Monday at the Dena’ina Center, followed by Dana Tindall’s at 4 p.m.
A memorial fund has also been set up by Corey's father, John Tindall, to honor the South High student's love of debate. The Corey Tindall Memorial Speech and Debate Fund, Inc. will help fund tournaments and student travel to the Harvard Tournament in Washington, D.C.
Donations can be be brought to any Northrim Bank location or sent to:
Tindall, Bennett & Shoup
508 W. 2nd Avenue, Third Floor
Anchorage, Alaska 99501
Contact Maria Downey at firstname.lastname@example.org
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