Few details on Anchorage plane crash as FBI investigates

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Authorities are declining to comment on any possible connection between a deadly plane crash in downtown Anchorage and the fact that the pilot's wife worked in one of the two buildings the small plane hit.

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The FBI and other agencies were still investigating the Tuesday morning wreck that killed 42-year-old pilot Doug Demarest, spokeswoman Staci Feger-Pellessier said Wednesday.

Demarest was flying a Cessna 172 owned by the Civil Air Patrol when he clipped the building that houses law firm Dorsey & Whitney and then crashed into an unoccupied commercial building. He died at the scene, and no one else was hurt.

Demarest joined the Civil Air Patrol five years ago, but the civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force called the flight unauthorized. The Civil Air Patrol is made up of volunteers who help with search and rescue, disaster relief and homeland security across the country, according to a statement from the national group.

Authorities, including the FBI, declined to say whether there was any link between the crash and Dorsey & Whitney, which employs Demarest's wife, Katherine Demarest. She could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

FBI policy prevents the agency from commenting on an active investigation, including "confirming or denying reports surrounding this case other than to reiterate there is no indication this was a terrorist act," Feger-Pellessier said in a statement.

She said the agency, which is leading the investigation, does not anticipate providing any updates for at least two weeks.

There also was little new information about Doug Demarest's use of the airplane, which was housed at a Civil Air Patrol hangar at Anchorage's Merrill Field.

The National Civil Air Patrol earlier noted the flight was unauthorized. Spokeswoman Julie DeBardelaben on Wednesday declined to say what exactly made it a breach of the organization's policy.

Local Civil Air Patrol officials were alerted Tuesday morning after maintenance crews making a routine perimeter check found the hangar door open, airfield manager Paul Bowers said. The workers did not note whether the plane was missing, he said.

The two buildings struck sustained only cosmetic damage, according to the FBI.

The building that houses the Dorsey & Whitney reopened around noon Tuesday, said Linda Boggs, spokeswoman for both structures' owner. She said the second building remained closed Wednesday because repairs must be made to a damaged transformer that caused a power outage there.

The law firm offices, however, will stay shut until Monday, according to Bryn Vaaler, an attorney and chief marketing officer based at the firm's Minneapolis headquarters. Vaaler has said no one was in the firm's sixth-floor offices at the time of the crash. He had no information about the couple's marital status.

On Wednesday, Doug Demarest's former stepfather Charlie Ballentine remembered him as someone who enjoyed spending time in the wilderness. For a while, Demarest worked as a park ranger in Alaska.

Ballentine said he had a falling out with Demarest in 2008 after alimony payments to Demarest's mother were reduced because of financial reasons. But he said he kept track of his former stepson secondhand, hearing "very nice things" about the way he treated his son.

He said the last time he talked to Demarest, his former stepson mentioned he wanted to get his pilot's license. "And unfortunately, apparently he did," Ballentine said, his voice breaking periodically.

Asked about his thoughts about the plane striking the building where Demarest's wife worked, Ballentine said, "He was always a very levelheaded guy."

Demarest was a seasonal park ranger at the Western Arctic Parklands, a trio of Alaska national parks, each summer between 2008 and 2010, according to Park Service spokesman John Quinley.

Earlier, he worked as a National Outdoor Leadership School instructor, teaching sea kayaking and other courses in Mexico, Canada and elsewhere in 2001 and 2002.


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