Troopers: 2 die in Alaska plane crash; 4 survivors
Monday, August 15, 2011
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A small plane carrying all three teachers for a remote Alaska village crashed in wilderness terrain, killing the pilot and one of the teachers, a school official said Sunday.
The other two teachers and their two children survived, said Karen Ladegard, superintendent of the Iditarod School District, which oversees the school in the Athabascan community of Anvik and six other schools in the region.
Alaska State Troopers earlier Sunday said four people died and two survived.
The deadly crash closely follows two midair collisions in the state, including one that killed an Anchorage family of four.
Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said the survivors were flown to an Anchorage hospital. Troopers did not immediately release the names of the six on board the Inland Aviation Service plane.
Ladegard, however, said the survivors are two school teachers and their children. The teachers are new to Anvik, where the single-engine Cessna 207 was heading Saturday night when the plane went down.
Ladegard said the survivors are Don and Rosemary Evans, their 10-year-old son, Don Jr., and 8-year-old daughter, McKenzie. The couple were set to share a teaching position at the 18-student school, where classes are scheduled to begin Wednesday. Ladegard told The Associated Press she spoke by phone to Rosemary Evans, who said from the hospital that many of the injuries are broken bones. None of the injuries appear life threatening, Ladegard said.
Ladegard said the two who died were Julie Walker, a lifelong Anvik resident and longtime teacher in the village, and the pilot, Ernie Chase, who was originally from Anvik. Residents in the community of 85 were reeling, Ladegard said.
“Everybody is calling me. They’re devastated,” she said late Sunday afternoon in a phone interview from the community of McGrath.
The Cessna departed Saturday evening from McGrath, about 225 miles northwest of Anchorage. The plane was headed to Anvik, about 140 miles to the west.
Later 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 coordinated the ensuing search, which was hampered by poor weather, Guard officials said.
The Cessna’s emergency locator beacon helped searchers pinpoint the exact location, said Benjamin Morgan, a ground crew member for Aniak-based Inland Aviation.
Morgan said the plane crashed above the 15,000-foot level of hilly, rough terrain. He said there was heavy mist at the time and visibility was between two and three miles.
The crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.
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 Anchorage mountains. Both aircraft had minor damage but were able to land safely in Anchorage.