Civil Air Patrol finds missing pilot's body and plane in Lake Clark National Park

 David McRae. Photo courtesy Nick Hall
David McRae. Photo courtesy Nick Hall (KTUU)
Published: Nov. 3, 2016 at 4:40 PM AKDT
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Rescue crews discovered the body of pilot David McRae, 55, and his aircraft in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve onThursday morning.

After searching since Friday night, rescuers finally got a break in the weather and spotted the plane southwest of Merrill Pass in the Alaska Range at an elevation of about 6,500 feet, according to a news release from the Alaska National Guard.

McRae's body was recovered from the scene and released to the State Medical Examiner in Anchorage early Thursday afternoon.

McRae was the nephew of former Alaska First Lady Bella Hammond and commercially fished in Bristol Bay. He was delivering a load of fuel to her family's homestead in Lake Clark when the crash occured.

His family has been notified. The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause and circumstances of the crash.

Poor weather hampered search efforts for six days until weather cleared on Thursday.

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) was able to safely join in the search effort Thursday morning and spotted wreckage shortly after sunrise.

McRae was flying alone from Lake Hood in Anchorage en route to Port Alsworth in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve early Friday evening.

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center received indication of an aircraft 406 Beacon activation and sent search crews to the vicinity of the transmitted coordinates. The search that evening was limited due to very poor weather and visibility.

Bad weather conditions prevailed until today.


The search for missing bush pilot David McRae will continue Tuesday after poor weather conditions again hampered efforts to find him on Monday.

According to the National Parks Service, Pave Hawk helicopter crews with the Air National Guard have so far been unable to reach the area from where McRae’s emergency locator beacon was transmitting.

“The aircraft is believed to be at about the 5,000 foot elevation in a rugged, mountainous location between Merrill Pass and Telaquana Lake,” NPS wrote in a Tuesday press release. “Search efforts will continue today.”

McRae’s aircraft went missing on a Friday afternoon flight from Anchorage to Lake Clark. Tuesday marks the fifth day of efforts to try and locate him.


Search efforts are continuing for a pilot who went missing on a Friday afternoon flight out of Lake Hood, according to a statement from the National Parks Service and the Alaska Air National Guard.

The pilot has been identified as 55-year-old David McRae, the nephew of former Alaska First Lady Bella Hammond and the late Governor Jay Hammond, the National Parks Service said in a Sunday night press release.

Authorities believe McRae was the pilot and sole occupant of a single-engine Pilatus Porter which took off from Lake Hood Friday afternoon en route to Lake Clark Lodge with a load of fuel. The plane failed to reach its destination and was declared missing in Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.

The Air Guard plans to continue searching on Monday morning.

“Searchers are focusing on an area where an ELT signal was first received on Friday evening. The area is between Merrill Pass and Telaquana Lake, in the rugged northern portion of the national park,” NPS wrote in the release.