Sunday, April 20, 2014
The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska —Residents of a rural Alaska village reached survivors of a commuter plane crash two hours after the aircraft went down in freezing rain, authorities said Saturday.
The pilot and three passengers died in the crash of the single-engine turboprop Cessna 208. At least six passengers were transported for medical treatment. There was no report of fire. Few other details, including the possible cause of the crash in freezing rain, are known, National Transportation Safety Board investigator Clint Johnson said.
“It’s very much in the preliminary stages at this point,” he said.
The Hageland Aviation flight crashed around 6:30 p.m. about four miles from St. Mary’s, he said. Rescuers reached the scene at 8:30 p.m.
Pilot Terry Hansen and passengers Rose Polty, Richard Polty and Wyatt Coffee, an infant, died in the crash, Alaska State Troopers said.
The initial count of people on board was unclear because at least one was a lap child, Johnson said.
St. Mary’s, like scores of other Alaskan villages, is off the state road system. People routinely use small aircraft to reach regional hubs where they can catch another plane.
The Cessna left Bethel at 5:40 p.m. and was scheduled for a stop in Mountain Village before continuing on to St. Mary’s, a village of about 500, about 470 miles west of Anchorage.
Megan Peters, a spokeswoman for the Alaska State Troopers, said the airplane would have been flying in freezing rain with a mile of visibility and a 300-foot ceiling.
Hageland Aviation, part of the Era Alaska group that includes Era Aviation, said the company received word at 6:34 p.m. that Flight 1453 had crashed, President Jim Hickerson said.
St. Mary’s village public safety officer Fred Lamont Jr. told the Anchorage Daily News that a passenger on the plane, Melanie Coffee, called the village’s on-call health aide from the crash site. Villagers launched a search by snowmobile and on foot.
The 40 to 50 people searching could not immediately spot the wrecked airplane because of fog.
Coffee was able to leave the wrecked airplane and walk three-quarters of a mile to the village landfill, Lamont said, where she met rescuers and guided them to the crash.