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Missing seaplane pilot found dead in wreckage

Article from Bangor Daily News, Saturday, August 14, 2004

By Diana Bowley
of the NEWS Staff

BDN Photo by Gabor Degre
A game warden drives an ATV with a stretcher Friday to the site where a single-engine Cessna seaplane crashed Thursday on the south side of Houston Mountain near Brownville.

TOWNSHIP 6, RANGE 9, - The search for a missing seaplane ended Friday afternoon when the aircraft's wreckage was found on Big Houston Mountain near Brownville. The pilot, Kathy Hodgkins, 47, of Glenburn, was found dead inside the plane.Hodgkins, an experienced pilot, crashed her single-engine Cessna on Thursday morning in the remote area about 21/2 miles from the Katahdin Iron Works Gate.

She was en route to pick up passengers at Lobster Lake, according to Warden Sgt. Pat Dorian of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. She never made the rendezvous.

A family friend, John Ford, spoke Friday on the family's behalf from KT Aviation in Glenburn, a company run by Hodgkins and her husband, Tim.

"Right now, we're surrounded by a lot of friends and family," he said. "It's pretty tough, as could be expected."

Maine State Police secured the crash scene at the peak of Big Houston Mountain, which has an elevation of 1,567 feet. Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration are scheduled to arrive today to begin their investigation.

A state medical examiner also arrived at the scene late Friday afternoon.

"It appears she flew right into the mountain," Warden Kevin Adam said Friday.

"We don't know any of the details. None of us have been to the [crash] site," Ford said.

Ford, a representative for Sen. Susan Collins and former flying student of Hodgkins, said Hidgkins had been a pilot for Continental Airlines and was a local flight instructor for many years.

"She had flown since she was 16 or 17 years old, which puts her in the 30-plus year category," Ford said. "She had extensive experience."

"She flew planes to Europe, big planes," Pat Giorgio, another friend of Hodgkins, said Friday. "It's hard to think she would have had a problem with such a small plane. I only hope she died on impact."

A search team of forest rangers, game wardens and friends of Hodgkins began searching an area Thursday where her airplane reportedly went off the FAA radar screen.

Her husband also used one of his own planes to search, but bad weather prevented any further air search Friday.

From the radar screen information, Adam said, Hodgkins had kept the elevation of the seaplane "pretty stable" until she approached the mountain. He said she was flying at approximately 1,100 feet and her flight path was three miles west of the Pleasant River's West Branch.

The crash site was discovered at 2:45 p.m. Friday by searchers on the ground who went to Katahdin Iron Works. They searched the area on all-terrain vehicles over remote and rutted logging roads.

The going was difficult, Adam said, because the recent rainy weather had washed out logging roads and bridges. It also required a rugged half-mile hike through a thick forest on foot, according to Adam.

The Maine State Police set up a command post for the search Friday at the Greenville headquarters of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Dorian praised the cooperation between his department, state police, the Maine Forestry Department, the Civil Air Patrol and the Piscataquis County Sheriff's Department. He said about 75 people were involved in the search.

Ford called Hodgkins an avid gardener and photographer. Recently, she had taken up figure skating. Hodgkins and Giorgio shared the same instructor, Catherine Perry of Glenburn.

"She was a figure-skating friend. We would all go out to dinner once a month, kind of like a girls night out," Giorgio said.

"It's kind of hard to talk about it in past tense now."

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.