Ten people were killed Sunday when their air taxi crashed at a small Alaskan airport in Soldotna, about 7o miles southwest of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula.
The de Havilland DHC3 Otter airplane, a single-engine propeller aircraft, was owned and operated by Rediske Air. Walter “Willy” Rediske, 42, who was piloting the airplane, was described as a highly experienced pilot with several years of experience flying in challenging weather conditions and terrain by those who worked and flew with him.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials from Washington DC arrived at the scene to investigate the crash, which occurred about 11:20 a.m. local time (3:20 ET). One Alaska-based NTSB official was called back from the Asiana Airline crash in San Francisco.
Investigators said that it wasn’t clear whether the airplane crashed upon takeoff or landing. Initial unconfirmed reports indicated the airplane had crashed after takeoff. There were no survivors.
Capt. Lesley Quelland of Central Emergency Services in Soldotna told the Anchorage Daily News that responders saw a giant plume of black smoke from the station, about three miles from the crash site. The airplane was engulfed in flames when they arrived, making it difficult for firefighters to reach the wreckage.
According to a release by the Alaska State Troopers, the local weather at the time of the crash was cloudy with a light wind.
Flying in small airplanes is a way of life for many Alaskans due to the limited system of roads and isolation of its cities. Mountainous terrain and extreme weather make flying especially hazardous, though neither is thought to have played a role in Sunday’s crash.
There have been several plane crashes in Alaska this year. On Saturday, a small plane crashed near Ft. Abercrombie on Kodiak Island, about 200 miles south of Soldotna. Both men aboard the plane survived. On June 28, a commercial airplane tour crashed in the Alaska Range, killing the pilot and two passengers.