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Contact: John Quinley, 907-644-3512
The investigation into the crash of an aircraft carrying three National Park Service employees continues today with an expected visit by a National Transportation Safety Board investigator this afternoon to the beach where debris was found on Tuesday evening.
Aerial searching by the U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday confirmed the location of the wreckage along the beach of Katmai National Park east of the Douglas River. Small pieces of the aircraft were found, including a section located near the tail with identification numbers. No debris was seen on ground higher than the beach. The USCG helicopter crew did not land on the beach, and bad weather precluded the NPS from sending park rangers to the site.
Determination of a cause of the accident will come from the National Transportation Safety Board, which has responsibility for the on-going investigation. The NPS will assist those investigators as requested, said Katmai NP Superintendent Ralph Moore, but outside of working with the NTSB no additional search work will be conducted. As no wreckage was found off the beach, all indications at this time point to an accident where the aircraft went into the water, he said.
The single engine floatplane, a deHavilland Beaver operated by Branch River Air Service in King Salmon, had been missing since August 21. The employees who were on board the aircraft were Mason McLeod, 26, and two brothers, Neal Spradlin, 28; and Seth Spradlin, 20. The pilot was Marco Alletto, 47, from King Salmon.
The debris was located about 10 miles northwest of Sukoi Bay and about 6 miles from the Douglas River. Tuesday evening’s discovery was the first physical evidence found after more than a month of aerial and ground searching by national park, state, military and civilian personnel. More than 60,000 miles of flying was done, at times with more than a dozen aircraft working search patterns over the 4 million acre park as well as areas outside the park.
The beach where the debris was found had been flown over by the National Park Service as recently as Monday, and rangers had walked the beach just a few miles west of the debris site. High tides and high east winds on Monday and Tuesday are thought to have helped make the debris visible from the air by moving it onshore.