Troopers recover, identify 2 dead from plane crash in Chugach State Park

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 6:51 AM AKDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2021 at 9:49 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A recovery effort Tuesday evening successfully recovered the two people aboard a plane that crashed in Chugach State Park.

Volunteers from the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and Alaska State Troopers’ Helo 3 managed to retrieve 23-year-old Dakota Bauder of Anchorage and 27-year-old McKenna Vierra of Hawaii from the steep, mountainous area of Eagle River Valley, troopers said an online disptach.

The National Transportation Safety Board will be conducting an investigation on the cause of the crash.

Troopers initially said that no survivors were found inside the plane that was reported overdue. Clint Johnson, chief of the NTSB’s Alaska regional office, confirmed later on Tuesday that there were two occupants.

Johnson said the NTSB was notified Monday afternoon that the plane was missing or overdue. Around 10:45 p.m., a good Samaritan in a helicopter “that had joined the search had found the wreckage and unfortunately had found both occupants deceased inside.”

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center was initially contacted about an overdue aircraft around 8 p.m. Monday. Following an aerial survey of the area, and help from other airplanes nearby, the wreckage site was located in the state park.

Recovery efforts were expected to begin Tuesday morning, according to the dispatch.

Johnson said the plane took off from Merrill Field Airport in Anchorage and that it’s registered and operated by Angel Aviation. He said the flight school has been very cooperative and that NTSB will be working with the company throughout the investigation.

Troopers believe the small plane flew above the Knik River Valley toward Knik Glacier and Lake George before changing course for the state park. Johnson said at this point, the NTSB knows the plane came to rest in steep, mountainous terrain, with “glacial areas around the accident as well.”

“So right now the wreckage is in a very, very precarious area,” Johnson said. “Which is going to complicate the state troopers, Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, (and) NTSB, who is at the site right now working on that. But we’re coming up with a plan to be able to ... do what our investigator needs to do to be able to document the accident site and also allow the troopers to do what they need to do, and also the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group.”

The accident site is only accessible by helicopter, Johnson said.

He said it’s too early to say anything about what might have caused the crash.

“We’re still gathering the pieces of the puzzle,” Johnson said. “We’re not even anywhere near putting that puzzle together.”

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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