Efforts to recover the bodies of five people killed in an Alaska “flightseeing” plane crash earlier this month have been called off, park rangers said, because the operation would exceed an acceptable level of risk to recovery workers.
“Due to the unique challenges posed by the steepness of terrain, the crevasse, avalanche hazard and the condition of the aircraft, NPS has determined that recovery of the deceased and/or removal of the aircraft exceed an acceptable level of risk in all three factors and will not be attempted,” the National Park Service said in a news release.
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 plane departed from Talkeetna airport Saturday evening for a tour of the Kahiltna Glacier when it crashed about 14 miles southwest of Mt. Denali on an 11,000-foot ridge known as Thunder Mountain.
According to the National Park Service, the crevasse where the wreckage sits “is a dangerous and potentially fatal terrain trap should even a small avalanche occur.”
“The aircraft is broken in half behind the wing, and the tail section of the fuselage is actively pulling down the aircraft towards a glacier 3,500 feet below. Additionally, more than two and a half feet of new snow has fallen at the crash site and loaded the nearly 45-degree slope just above the aircraft,” the Park Service added.
The Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Los Angeles requested that the names of the four Polish nationals killed in the plane crash not be released.
Despite the inaccessibility of the plane crash wreckage, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators are proceeding with their investigation.
NTSB Alaska Regio Chief Clint Johnson told KTUU Channel 2 Anchorage that a library of pictures of the plane crash provide evidence of what went wrong.
“What we’re going to be able to use are a number — I mean, hundreds of photographs that the Park Service took at the scene in lieu of a wreckage exam or actually hands-on,” Mr. Johnson told KTUU.