Andrew Broders, 36, a Washington state man who worked in Cordova as a fisherman, was killed in a Feb. 4 plane crash, the Alaska State Troopers announced. Pilot Christopher Maize, 45, of Anchorage and Glennallen, also died in the crash.
The Cessna 185 aircraft, which also carried U.S. mail, was flying from Gulkana to McCarthy when it fell in a remote, forested area of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve about 13 miles northeast of Chitina, the Associated Press reported. Clint Johnson, the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska regional chief, said early findings indicated the single-engine propeller plane may have broken up during flight. The plane was on a flight operated by Copper Valley Air Service, according to the NTSB.
Broders, who came from a family of fishermen, got his first taste of Cordova fishing life when he was 4 years old, said Nick Carr, Broders’s cousin. A Navy veteran and aquaculture entrepreneur, Broders purchased a gold claim near Dan Creek, where he would travel once or twice a year to pan for gold. Carr said Broders enjoyed gold-panning “not so much for the shiny rocks themselves, but for the adventure and story in the finding of shiny rocks.” Broders was traveling to pan for gold when the plane carrying him and Maize crashed.
Broders’s friends described him as an outgoing and generous man who worked hard to support his community.
“In my 35 years on this earth with him, I never heard him once say a mean or negative thing to anyone,” Carr wrote in an email. “If he thought that someone needed help, he would offer it. He was a jolly, cheerful soul, always quick with a laugh and smile.”
On June 7, 2020, Broders staged a one-man counter-protest to a Cordova Black Lives Matter march, hoisting a sign reading “Blue Lives Matter” as protesters passed by. Broders said he opposed racism and police brutality, but also wanted to show support for police who acted with integrity.
An online fundraiser on behalf of Maize’s family described Maize as “a gentle, kind and humble man who was a diligent and careful pilot who loved sharing Alaska and the National Park with visitors.” A scholarship will be established in Maize’s name, fundraiser organizers said.
Investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing. The main fuselage landed about 200 yards from the tail and other debris, Johnson told the AP. Mid-air breakups are unusual and often involve flights in bad weather. However, weather at the time of the crash did not immediately appear to be a factor, Johnson said. A structural engineer and an Alaska-based investigator are expected to travel to the crash site, where wreckage will be recovered for examination, he said.