A man killed after a small plane he was piloting in Alaska clipped a downtown Anchorage building and crashed early Tuesday was a former Minnesotan whose wife worked for a Minneapolis-based law firm whose office was also in that building.
Katherine Demarest was not at work at the Dorsey & Whitney office in Anchorage and it is unclear if anyone else was in the building when a Cessna 172 flown by her husband, Doug Demarest, crashed into the building around 6:20 a.m. Tuesday, authorities said. Demarest died, but no one else was injured.
He was not authorized to fly the plane, which belongs to the Civil Air Patrol, a civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force that 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. Demarest joined the patrol in 2010.
Doug and Katherine Demarest both have ties to Minnesota: She graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2008 and clerked for then-Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Eric Magnuson in 2009-2010. He was a photographer who had a studio in the Twin Cities around that time.
A cached version of dougdemarest.com, a since-closed website showcasing his photography, described Doug Demarest as a former National Park Service ranger who “makes images of adventures and the landscapes and cultures that they explore, in far-flung places and his Alaska backyard.”
A spokeswoman for the Anchorage division of the FBI, which is investigating the crash, said Wednesday that there were no indications that it was “terrorist-related” but added that the bureau could not comment further on the investigation. The six-story Baker Building also houses the state attorney general’s office and is in the heart of Anchorage’s legal district.
Katherine Demarest was among the primary members of a pro bono legal team that earlier this month helped reach a settlement that resulted in the dismissal of charges and release of the “Fairbanks Four,” four men who had been in prison for a 1997 murder each say they didn’t commit.
Hours after learning of Doug Demarest’s death, the “Fairbanks Four” made plans for a fundraiser for her and their two young children, said Peter Captain Jr., who is helping to coordinate the effort.
“Whether we make $5,000 or $50,000, it will bring her to tears, because it’s just a little small part of paying it forward,” Captain said. “It’s a small part of us saying thank you for what you done for our guys.”
Bryn Vaaler, an attorney and chief marketing officer at the firm’s Minneapolis headquarters, confirmed that the plane clipped the building at which Katherine Demarest works, but said no one else was injured in the predawn crash.
“We know based on the limited facts available that it is a personal tragedy for Kate and her family,” Vaaler said. “Anything beyond that, we will defer to the investigators.”
Captain said Doug Demarest was “a huge supporter” of his wife’s work, but added that he didn’t know him well enough to comment further. Calling the crash “a tragic accident,” Captain said Katherine Demarest is surrounded by loved ones in Alaska.
“Words cannot comprehend. She’s just heartbroken, heartbroken,” he said.