Four people are dead and a fifth is missing but presumed dead after a sightseeing plane crashed on a steep mountain face in Alaska’s Denali National Park Saturday evening.
The de Havilland Beaver flightseeing airplane operated by K2 Aviation was carrying four tourists from Poland and pilot Craig Layson when it crashed Saturday, Aug. 4 about 6 p.m.
The airplane took off from Talkeetna Saturday evening for a tour of Kahiltna Glacier when it crashed about 14 miles southwest of Mt. Denali (formerly named Mt. McKinley). The plane crashed near the top of Thunder Mountain, a mile-long ridge with an elevation of 10,900 feet, the Associated Press reported.
Inclement weather and dangerous terrain, described by the National Park Service as “extremely steep and a mix of near-vertical rock, ice and snow,” hampered search and rescue efforts. A National Park Service ranger was lowered by helicopter to the crash site on Monday and confirmed that there were four bodies inside the aircraft.
A fifth person was missing, but the Park Ranger at the site did not see footprints in the snow or any other indication that a survivor had walked away from the plane crash.
According to the AP, Mr. Layson initially survived the plane crash. After the crash, he issued a distress call by satellite phone and reported that the passengers suffered injuries, but the connection failed before he could give further details.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is going to investigate the plane crash, but the wreckage is on a steep, crevassed slope and technical climbing skills are needed to access it. Recovery of the aircraft and bodies could take days. The NTSB and National Park Service were working on recovery plans Tuesday.
According to People, the Polish tourists were part of a larger group of nine. The remaining five tourists waited in Talkeetna for the first group to return from the sightseeing flight when the crash occurred.