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New Hero Search Robert Lee Bittick
- Oct. 11, 1994 -
(326)

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Alaska State Troopers Patch
Resided: Juneau AK, USA
Born: Nov. 17, 1938  
Fallen: Oct. 11, 1994
Race/Sex: Caucasian Male / 55 yrs. of age
Agency
Dept: Alaska State Highway Patrol
Juneau, AK   USA
Dept. Type: State/Police
Hero's Rank: Sergeant
Sworn Date: 1/1982
FBI Class: Accident - Police
Weapon Class: Aviation
On The Job: 12 years
Bio: Robert Lee Bittick, 55, was born on Nov. 17, 1938, in Idaho Springs, CO, to Afton and Farice Bittick. He was the youngest of three children, Robert Lee, Herbert ("Herbie"), and Rodney. Robert was raised in CO where his family lived in several "mountain towns" before moving to CA when Robert was a teenager. In 1956 he graduated from San Juan H.S. in Citrus Heights, CA (NE of Sacramento).

On July 28, 1956, Robert, 17, married Joyce Mae Warren, 17, in Orangevale, CA. The couple met in H.S. and eventually had four children, Tena Machell (born in 1957), Deborah ("Debbie") Joyce (born in 1958), Richard ("Rick") Lee (born in 1964), and William ("Mick") Mitchell (born in 1966). All four children were born in CA. Robert Bittick worked at several jobs from 1956 to 1979 when he moved to AK. He drove a truck, operated a gasoline station, worked as a mechanic, sold vacuum cleaners, and built dune-buggies. In the mid-60's Bittick applied and was accepted into the CA Highway Patrol but decided not to take the position since new recruits were being sent to Southern CA and his wife did not want to move the children to that area of the state. Robert then joined her brother, Herbie, as a fireman in Fair Oaks, CA. Shortly before moving to AK, Bittick and a high school friend, Robert Womack, owned and operated a cement company. Robert Bittick decided to move to AK in 1979 after visiting his daughter, Tena, and her husband who had moved to Seward, AK. He fell in love with the coastal mountains in AK which reminded him of his early years in CO. From 1979 to 1981 Bittick worked in Seward for a cement company (Metco, Inc.) and refurbishing boats (for Seward Ships Chandlery). He also worked as a substitute welding instructor at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center (AVTEC) in Seward. Bittick joined the AK State Troopers in Sitka on Jan. 11, 1982. After graduating from the Academy in Sitka, he was assigned to Soldotna on April 19, 1982, and came under the command of Capt. C.E. Swackhammer. On May 13, 1986, Bittick transferred to King Salmon where he worked in a one-person post providing law enforcement services for most of the villages on the AK Peninsula by piloting departmental aircraft.

On July 1, 1990, Bittick was promoted to corporal and transferred to Juneau as Post Commander for Enforcement. He was promoted to Sgt. in Juneau on May 1, 1993, and continued to serve as Post Commander as well as supervisor of the Detachment's outposts such as Haines and Sitka. He was responsible for search and rescue operations. Sgt. Bittick was also a master scuba diver and worked with the Troopers' Tactical Dive Unit. Bittick also belonged to the Civil Air Patrol, the Channel Dive Club and the National Association of Underwater Instructors. His interest included flying, diving, motorcycle riding, and weight lifting (winning a "Master's Class Competition" with a bench press of 300 lbs.).

Survived by:
Joyce Bittick - Wife

his two sons, Mick Bittick, 27, of Toledo, OR, and Rick Bittick, 30, of Seward, AK; his two daughters Debbie Bittick, 36, of Juneau, and Tena Bittick Tippit, 38, of Seward; his mother, Farice Bittick of Fair Oaks, CA; and his brothers Rodney Bittick of Glendale, CA, and Herbie Bittick, Jr., of Citrus Heights, CA. He was also survived by seven grandchildren (Angela Darr, 19, and Ryan Darr, 14, of Juneau; Olevia Bittick, 2, and Breanna Bittick, 1, of Toledo, OR; and Kale Tippit, 7, Carson Tippit, 5, and Evan Toloff, 3, of Seward).

Fatal Incident Summary
Offender: none
  
Location: BC   USA   Tue. Oct. 11, 1994
Summary: Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety C.E. "Swack" Swackhammer, 51, and Sgt. Robert Bittick, 55, of the AK State Troopers were killed on Oct. 11, 1994, when their airplane crashed into a mountainside just north of Haines. They were the 10th and 11th (and last) of the 46 law enforcement officers killed in the history of AK to die in a plane crash. The plane that crashed was a "1940s-era" Grumman Goose that crashed into a mountainside during a snowstorm on the Canadian side of the border near Haines. The two men killed were the only people aboard the plane (Bittick was the pilot). Flight officials received no distress call from the two-engine plane before it went down in a heavy snowstorm. Because of the poor weather, the men were flying from Anchorage to Juneau on an alternative route known as the "backdoor route" which followed the AK Highway. They had left Anchorage around 1:00PM and the wreckage was discovered around 6:00PM in British Columbia.

The plane was one of three "Gooses" owned by the Dept. of Public Safety which operated 39 other fixed-wing aircraft and two helicopters statewide. The Goose was being returned to its home base in Juneau following repairs in Anchorage.

A motorist saw the wreckage at the 2,000-ft. level of an 8,000-ft. mountainous area about 30 yards from the Haines Highway and notified authorities. The plane was embedded in the side of small hill and did not catch fire. The flaps were not down and the wheels were up indicating that the plane was not trying to land at the time of the accident. It appeared that the two men "did not see the accident coming and died instantly." They were found with their hands still "on the yoke."

Source: Book       Excerpted in part or in whole from Dr. Wilbanks book-

FORGOTTEN HEROES: POLICE OFFICERS KILLED IN ALASKA, 1867-1998

By Dr. Wm. Wilbanks FL International University

To be published by Turner Publications in early 1999

Related: Claude Everett Swackhammer
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