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Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders died of blunt-force injuries from a plane crash, coroner says

The Columbian
Published: June 13, 2024, 7:41am

SEATTLE — Retired Maj. Gen. William Anders, the Apollo 8 astronaut, died of multiple blunt-force injuries when the plane he was piloting last week crashed off the coast of Jones Island, officials said Wednesday.

His manner of death was classified as an accident, according to Amy S. Vira, San Juan County’s prosecuting attorney and coroner.

Anders’ Beechcraft T-34 crashed under unknown circumstances into the water on June 7, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The fixed wing single-engine plane, which was damaged substantially in the crash, was built in 1961 and was most recently certified in 2018. The plane had taken off from Skagit Regional Airport, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware, and had been flown two consecutive days before the crash.

The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating. The NTSB will release a preliminary report within 30 days.

Anders took the iconic “Earthrise” photo that showed the planet from space in 1968 and was one of the first three humans to orbit the moon. His photo was the first color image from space and became one of the most well-known photos in modern history, crediting with changing how humans viewed the planet and inspiring environmental activism.

“As Bill put it so well after the conclusion of the Apollo 8 mission, ‘We came all this way to explore the Moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth,’” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement released Saturday.

“That is what Bill embodied — the notion that we go to space to learn the secrets of the universe yet in the process learn about something else: ourselves. He embodied the lessons and the purpose of exploration.”