A California pilot died after his small plane stalled and crashed as he was looking at a whale skeleton near a western Alaska village, the pilot of a companion airplane said.
Alaska State Troopers said 33-year-old Shaun Lunt of Loma Linda, Calif., was dead at the scene of the crash Friday night. Lunt's Piper Super Cub went down near Jacksmith Bay, about 425 miles west of Anchorage.
Fellow pilot Loni Habersetzer said he and Lunt had been beach-combing from the air. Lunt saw a whale vertebrae and circled the bones.
"The second time he circled, the plane stalled and spun and hit the ground and burned," Habersetzer said. "When the airplane burst into flames, I knew it was too late."
Habersetzer safely landed his Super Cub nearby.
The burning wreckage attracted the attention of an Alaska State Troopers' plane Friday night. Troopers radioed Habersetzer and told him to remain until they could return, but he left.
Habersetzer told The Associated Press on Saturday evening that he waited at the crash site for more than two hours before he left.
"But after watching my friend burn for two hours I just couldn't stay there anymore," he said in a phone interview.
Habersetzer is a bush pilot trainer and consultant doing business as Cubdriver 749er LLC in Washington state and Alaska, according to his Web site. The site features a videotaped testimonial to Habersetzer's teaching style by Lunt, an anesthesiologist.
"I never felt out of the comfort zone with what he was teaching," Lunt says in the video.
Ipsen said Lunt's body was recovered and would be taken to Anchorage for an autopsy.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating.