ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- As wildlife advocates mourned the plane crash death of Gordon Haber, the biologist who spent 40 years documenting the lives and societies of Denali National Park's wolves, his pilot was recovering Friday in a burn center in Seattle after he hiked 20 miles back to civilization.
Details of the crash and rescue operation in the heart of the park emerged two days after the Cessna 185 used by Haber crashed in spruce trees near the East Fork of the Toklat River, the locale of one of the wolf packs Haber was studying.
The pilot, Daniel McGregor, 35, told a park ranger that he was able to free himself from the wreckage, according to Clint Johnson, senior investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.
As McGregor struggled to free Haber, however, the plane caught fire and he had to abandon his efforts, Johnson said.
Johnson said he didn't know if Haber was conscious -- or even alive -- at the time, but he hoped to get that information from McGregor when he recovers enough to be interviewed, probably in the next week or two, he said.
Haber's death was a huge blow to the conservation groups that sought to expand the area of protection for wolves outside the boundaries of Denali Park and who opposed frequent state efforts to kill wolves and bears to increase game populations.
"He cherished the wolves he chose to study," said his main benefactor, Priscilla Feral, the president of Friends of Animals in Darien, Conn. "Our role was to finance this to help make it possible. I considered it essential to good arguments in Alaska -- you can't blow holes in the state's data without somebody that committed and that devoted to cracking the science. That's what he did, and he captured everybody's imagination."
Read the complete story at adn.com