Alaska State Troopers have confirmed that a small plane carrying six passengers crashed in rural Alaska, leaving two dead.
The single-engine Cessna 207 took off from the small community of McGrath Saturday night headed 140 miles west to the village of Anvik, population 85. The plane crashed about 37 miles west of McGrath on the side of a small mountain on a 30 to 40-degree slope at about the 1,700-foot level.
Karen Ladegard, superintendent of the Iditarod School District, identified the injured as teachers Don and Rosemary Evans, both 32, their 10-year-old son, Don Jr., and 8-year-old daughter, McKenzie. They were flown to McGrath, then to Providence Alaska Medical Center for treatment. Though the survivors suffered broken bones, none of the injuries appear to be serious.
The deceased were Julie Walker, 52, a longtime third grade teacher in Anvik, and the veteran pilot, Ernie Chase, 66, who was originally from Anvik.
The Evans were set to begin a teaching position at an 18-student school teaching fourth through eighth grade. The teachers, along with others from around the Iditarod district, were in McGrath for six days of training before the start of classes on Wednesday.
The group was supposed to fly out on Friday, but were detained by poor weather till Saturday evening. The plane took off around 7 p.m. for its 1 hr 15 min flight.
Around 8:45 p.m. Saturday night, a personal spot beacon transmitting a 911 signal was activated, showing the plane 37 miles west of McGrath. The Alaska National Guard's Rescue Coordination Center in Anchorage received the S.O.S. and began coordinating the search party.
At around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, the team launched an HC-130 plane with Alaska Air National Guard pararescuers and officers from Joint Base Elmendorf- Richardson, but because of the dense cloud cover and heavy mist, could not reach the crash site.
The group tried again around 9 a.m. and were able to reach the survivors around 11 a.m.- 14 hours after the initial crash.
Families of the victims and survivors are frustrated at the amount of time it took to reach the crash, but rescuers say that visibility Saturday night was only 2 to 3 miles, making it almost impossible for them to reach the site safely.
The crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. Investigator Clint Johnson went to the crash site Sunday with troopers and a Federal Aviation Administration inspector. So far, the cause of the crash is unknown.
This crash comes in the wake of two recent Alaska airspace tragedies.
On July 30, an Anchorage pilot and his family died in a collision between their single-engine plane and another aircraft around Amber Lake near Trapper Creek, 80 miles north of Anchorage. The pilot of the other plane was alone in the aircraft and uninjured.
On July 10, nine people aboard a Piper Navajo and four people in a Cessna 206 were uninjured when the planes collided as they were flying directly toward each other in Lake Clark Pass - a narrow river valley that runs between the Anchorage mountains.