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Contact: John Quinley, 907 644-3512
Good weather continued to hold over most of Katmai National Park and Preserve this morning as search aircraft and crews began their fourth day of looking for a missing aircraft with four men on board.
Air crews today hope to fly over a relatively few areas which have not been searched, and return to other areas to check again for any sign of the plane. Since the incident began Saturday afternoon, aircraft have cumulatively flown search tracks totaling more than 8,000 miles, said Katmai NP Superintendent Ralph Moore. Assuming spotters and pilots were able to carefully search within a half-mile on either side of their flight paths, more than 3,600 square miles has been covered, he said. The search area is more than 4,000 square miles.
The single engine floatplane, a deHavilland Beaver operated by Branch River Air Service in King Salmon, carried the pilot and three National Park Service maintenance employees and has been missing since Saturday afternoon. The missing employees are Mason McLeod, 26, and two brothers, Neal Spradlin, 28; and Seth Spradlin, 20. The pilot is Marco Alletto, 47, from King Salmon. After poor weather on Saturday and Sunday, search crews had clear skies and excellent visibility on Monday. Similar weather is forecast today.
Up to 10 aircraft will participate in the search today. The multi-agency effort includes the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Alaska State Troopers, U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska Air National Guard, Egli Air Haul, and Branch River Air. Other air taxi operators taking clients to the area have also informally joined the search. The National Park Service has a regional incident management team in place at the park’s King Salmon headquarters to assist the park coordinate the search.
This morning’s search effort began with a U.S. Coast Guard C-130 flying routes on the southern side of Katmai, near Becharof Lake. Although it is a significant distance from the expected flight path of the missing plane, it is low country that could have provided a route toward King Salmon during the poor weather on Saturday afternoon.
The search began late Saturday afternoon after the Beaver failed to return to King Salmon. Two planes owned by Branch River Air Service in King Salmon flew to Swikshak Lagoon on Saturday to pick up an NPS maintenance crew working there preparing for the replacement of an old ranger patrol cabin. Three people were picked up by the Beaver at 1:45 p.m., and a second plane left Swikshak 15 minutes later. The
second plane, with two employees and pilot on board, returned safely but had to fly much of the way 500 feet above ground level due to deteriorating weather conditions.
An emergency response was initiated through the Rescue Coordination Center on Saturday afternoon. There has been no indication of emergency locator transmitter transmissions and no evidence of any radio distress calls.
Katmai N.P is about 300 miles southwest of Anchorage.