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Napa couple killed in Alaska plane crash
Alaska Air disaster

Napa couple killed in Alaska plane crash

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A Napa couple was killed Thursday in a sightseeing plane crash in Alaska, according to family and coworkers.

Mark Henderson and Jacque Komplin, of Browns Valley, were in Alaska on a Holland America Line cruise, according to Henderson’s sister Kathleen Grayson.

Grayson said the two had recently sent messages “talking about how gorgeous it was," in Alaska. "They were having so much fun.”

“I’m just numb right now,” said Grayson, who lives in American Canyon. “You just don’t expect this to happen.”

Henderson was known from having worked in Napa as a public defender, though he had retired. He was a member of Napa High School class of 1969, said Grayson. 

Komplin was a registered nurse and instructor at Pacific Union College. For several years, she ran the “Wellness on Wheels” program for Community Action of Napa Valley, said the program's Executive Director Drene Johnson.

Komplin coordinated a team of volunteer nurses to add a medical component to the local Meals on Wheels program, Johnson said. Nurses would contact and visit with older adults. Komplin made sure about 465 older Napa County residents were contacted every day or every other day through the pandemic, Johnson said.

“Everybody just thought the world of her. I’m just lost … we’re so devastated,” Johnson said.

Komplin had been excited about the pending trip to Alaska, Johnson said. Henderson had just sold a piece of property, and they were eager to spend some time together.

“It was a celebration time,” she said.

“Everyone in the office is like ‘this can’t be happening’ … we just saw her; we were just laughing with her. She just bought everybody flowers,” Johnson said.

Authorities have yet to officially identify the victims of the crash while they attempt to recover the wreckage in a remote area.

The plane crashed Thursday as the pilot was returning five passengers to Ketchikan from Misty Fjords National Monument, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.

The plane’s emergency beacon was activated about 11:20 a.m. when it crashed near the monument, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

A helicopter company reported seeing wreckage on a ridgeline in the search area, and Coast Guard crew members found the wreckage around 2:40 p.m. A Coast Guard helicopter lowered two rescue swimmers to the site, but they reported no survivors, the agency said.

Alaska State Troopers were working with members from the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad to coordinate recovery efforts.

“Poor weather conditions and deteriorating visibility in the Ketchikan and Misty Fjords area have prevented the Alaska State Troopers and volunteers from the Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad from conducting any recovery efforts this morning,” troopers spokesperson Austin McDaniel said in an email Friday to The Associated Press.

All five passengers were on an excursion off the Holland America Line cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam. The company was making counseling services available to guests and crew, it said in a statement.

The plane involved Thursday, a de Havilland Beaver, was owned by Southeast Aviation LLC.

“Our hearts are shattered at the loss of six people today. We are thinking of and grieving with the families of the five passengers and our dear friend and pilot aboard the aircraft,” the company said in a Thursday evening statement. “We are cooperating with the first responders and agencies involved.”

Ketchikan is a popular stop for cruise ships visiting Alaska, and cruise ship passengers can take various sightseeing excursions while in port.

Popular among them are small plane flights to Misty Fjords National Monument, where visitors can see glacier valleys, snow-capped peaks and lakes in the wilderness area.

In 2019, two sightseeing planes collided in midair, killing six of the 16 people on board the two planes.

The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a crew to investigate the crash. The team was expected to arrive in Alaska Friday.

The FAA is also investigating.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Napa County Public Health Officer Karen Relucio updates residents on the latest developments regarding COVID-19. Video courtesy of Napa County.

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You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

Editor

Sean has been editor of the Napa Valley Register since April of 2014. His previous credits include the Press Democrat, The Weekly Calistogan, The Washington Times and Time and People magazines.

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