UPDATE: Downed plane won't be removed from Denali National Park mountainside, Park Service says
The plane that crashed into a mountain ridge, and the five victims aboard, will not be removed, the National Park Service said in a release Friday. National Park Rangers reached the crash site Friday and found the fifth person, now confirmed deceased.
Park Rangers were able to reach the plane for just the second time since the plane crashed Saturday evening. The rangers departed Talkeetna at about 7:30 a.m. and returned about three hours later.
The rangers found that the risks that would come with removing the victims’ bodies and/or the plane were too great. “Recovering the bodies and the aircraft under the current conditions would require an extremely complex and unfeasible recovery operation,” a press release said.
"The primary thing that we're trying to do," said Park Ranger Chris Erickson, before continuing, "We're trying to do our best, and our best is first of all, not to have any further accidents or injuries."
Friday’s operation included a park ranger short-hauled to the crash site – suspended beneath a helicopter and hoisted from another location near the crash. The Park Service in a press release said the ranger searched the wreckage for nearly an hour, but had to remain attached to the helicopter, due to the instability of the plane and the area.
The Rangers report that the aircraft is broken in half behind the wing, and the tail section is pulling the plane down toward a glacier 3,500 feet below. More than two-and-a-half feet of snow has fallen at the site.
The Park Service says its hazards include avalanches, steep crevasses, unstable blocks of ice, and the jagged metal of the aircraft.
“The crevasse where the wreckage sits is a dangerous and potentially fatal terrain trap should even a small avalanche occur,” NPS wrote in a release.
The severity, probability and exposure of risk that would come with a removal effort “exceed an acceptable level of risk in all three factors and will not be attempted.”