UPDATE: Victims identified as five die in mid-air collision

 Photo courtesy Hannah brown
Photo courtesy Hannah brown (KTUU)
Published: Aug. 31, 2016 at 4:08 PM AKDT
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Alaska State Troopers have released the names of the five people who died in a mid-air collision Wednesday morning near Russian Mission.

In a dispatch Wednesday evening, AST said a RAVN (Hageland Aviation) C208 Caravan was flying from Russian mission to Marshal with three people on board. They were identified as pilot Harry Wrase, 48 of Wasilla, and passengers Steven Paul Andrew, 32 of Kenai and Aaron Jay Minock, 21, of Russian Mission.

The other aircraft was a Renfro’s Alaska Adventure Super Cub that took off from Bethel flying to a hunting camp with pilot Zach Justin Babat, 44 of Montana, and passenger Jeff Thomas Burruss, 40 of Haines.

There were no survivors from either aircraft and state troopers say next of kin have been notified. Alaska State Troopers and NTSB are on scene continuing the investigation.

Hannah Nadesta Brown, the niece of pilot Harry Wrase, Jr., tells KTUU that her uncle was the pilot of the Hageland plane that crashed after a collision with another aircraft.

"My uncle had the biggest heart," Brown said. "He truly loved flying and serving the villages. He is going to be missed by so many".

Brown said Wrase lived in Wasilla but grew up in McGrath and leaves behind two children.

"We just want people to know that he was an amazing father and he was a good pilot," Brown said. "He loved chess, he was an avid player and went to Vegas every year to compete in the International chess festival."


Two investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are expected to arrive later today at the scene of a midair collision in Western Alaska that claimed the lives of five people. A third investigator from Seattle should land in Russian Mission on Thursday, said Clint Johnson, chief of the NTSB’s regional office in Alaska.

The crash occurred approximately six miles northwest of Russian Mission, a Yup'ik Eskimo village along the Yukon River, 376 miles west of Anchorage.

“Preliminary reports indicate the crash sites are accessible only by helicopter,” Johnson said.

The aircraft involved are a Hageland Aviation Cessna 208 Caravan with three people on board and a Renfro’s Alaska Adventures Piper PA-18 Super Cub with two people on board, said Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead.

Olmstead said rolling hills and heavy vegetation define the terrain.

The weather is good with clear skies and temperatures in the low 60s. A National Guard Black Hawk helicopter is responding to the second crash site at this hour, Olmstead said.

One of the aviation companies contacted the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center at 11 a.m. on Wednesday to say that they had lost radio contact with an aircraft and that it was overdue.

Alaska State Troopers contacted the coordination center at 11:15 a.m. to report that a second aircraft was overdue, according to Olmstead.

A third aircraft flying overhead spotted aircraft wreckage on the ground that indicated a mid-air collision between two planes.

Troopers said there were no survivors. The identities of the pilots and passengers have not yet been released.

Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. expressed condolences to the family and friends of those killed in the crash. Emergency clinicians are available for families and loved ones at the corporation's Family Center in Bethel. Behavioral health aides throughout the region's village clinics are also standing by the speak with those affected by the crash. If anyone would like to speak with an emergency clinician, they can call 907-543-6499.

This story will be updated when more information becomes available.