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Contact: Katherine Belcher, (907) 683-9583
TALKEETNA, Alaska – A Talkeetna-based flightseeing airplane carrying four passengers crashed in Denali National Park and Preserve at approximately 6 p.m. on August 4. According to satellite information conveyed by the plane’s electronic locator transmitter, the de Havilland Beaver (DHC-2), operated by K2 Aviation, made impact at approximately 10,900 feet elevation on a feature unofficially known as Thunder Mountain.
According to K2 Aviation, the pilot of the downed plane made at least two satellite phone calls to the company’s airport office to report the crash, one shortly after it occurred and another at approximately 7 p.m. The pilot reported injuries, but the extent is unknown. Two subsequent satellite calls were initiated from the aircraft, but the satellite connection dropped and no sound was transmitted. The last attempted call occurred at 8:35 pm. The de Havilland Beaver is reportedly equipped with an emergency survival kit including sleeping bags, a stove and pot to boil water, food supplies, first aid kit and other items.
Denali National Park’s A-Star B3e high-altitude helicopter launched with short-haul capability at 8 pm, with a pilot and two rescuers on board. The helicopter crew was able to fly to within a mile of the plane’s GPS coordinates; however, cloud cover at the accident site prevented a visual observation of the downed aircraft. Rescuers were unable to communicate with the pilot via radio, and it is assumed that the aircraft’s radio was damaged in the crash. The park helicopter returned to Talkeetna at 11 pm due to deteriorating weather conditions. Two fixed-wing aircraft operated by K2 Aviation also flew reconnaissance in the vicinity and were unable to see or communicate with the downed aircraft.
The crash site is believed to be near the summit of Thunder Mountain (10,920 feet), a feature located roughly 14 miles southwest of the summit of Denali. Thunder Mountain is more of a ridge than a mountain, stretching roughly a mile long from east to west and rising about 3,000 feet above both the Tokositna and Kahiltna Glaciers. The knife-edge ridge that constitutes Thunder Mountain extends easterly to become a southern ridge of Mount Stevens, formerly known as the South Peak of Mount Hunter. Terrain in the vicinity of the crash site is characterized as extremely steep and a mix of near-vertical rock, ice and snow.
Denali National Park rescuers are being assisted by Air National Guard 210th, 211th and 212th Rescue squadrons from Anchorage. The military, using a C-130 and HH-60 helicopter, also were unable to make visual or radio contact with the downed aircraft on Saturday.
A K2 Aviation plane took off at 5 a.m. today to assess flight conditions and the pilot reported a low-cloud ceiling. A U.S. Army HH-60 rescue helicopter with hoist capability was part of the rescue effort today and has returned to Anchorage. The 211th Rescue Squadron C-130 launched at 9 a.m. and is actively conducting aerial overflights of the accident zone in the Alaska Range. NPS is monitoring the changing weather conditions and coordinating operations from the Walter Harper Talkeetna Ranger Station.
When weather permits, a four-member ground crew will stage near the base of Thunder Mountain to provide weather observations and assist in the event of a short-haul or military hoist rescue. A ground ascent of Thunder Mountain is not considered an option due to significant rockfall and unstable snow and cornice conditions at this time of the year.
The names of the pilot and passengers have not been released.