UPDATE: Pilot of downed plane identified

The Cessna 207 piloted by James Poelman of Wasilla, submerged in the Big Susitna River...
The Cessna 207 piloted by James Poelman of Wasilla, submerged in the Big Susitna River (Courtesy Alaska State Troopers) (KTUU)
Published: Jun. 13, 2018 at 1:23 PM AKDT
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UPDATE: Thursday, 8:10 p.m.

While the NTSB has not publicly identified the surviving pilot, Channel 2 News has confirmed he is Bruce Markwood from Anchorage. Markwood declined KTUU's request for an on-air interview Thursday but did say he has given statements to the NTSB as part of the open investigation and wanted to send his condolences to the Poelman family.

8:05 p.m. update

Alaska State Troopers have identified the pilot of a plane downed in the Susitna River Wednesday afternoon as James Poelman, 56, of Wasilla, whose body has been recovered from the crash site.

AST says Poelman was the pilot and sole occupant of a Cessna 207 that collided with a Cessna 175 midair over the mouth of the Big Susitna River.

Poelman's family has been notified. His body has been turned over to the State Medical Examiner's office.

The NTSB is investigating the cause and circumstances of the crash.

A close look at the radio transmissions from the surviving pilot to Air Traffic Control detail the sequence of events after the mid-air collision occurred:

Pilot: "I've been involved in an accident, I'm missing my left gear."

ATC: "Do you want to land at Lake Hood or Anchorage? We're trying to coordinate for you."

Pilot: "I'd rather land at Lake Hood on the dirt."


Pilot: "Cessna 2-3 Bravo, I've got a real bad vibration, I can't climb any higher."

ATC: "November 2-3 Bravo, no worries. Just come inbound and orbit at the strip. What altitude do you want to remain at?"

Pilot: " 2-3 Bravo, I'm starting to lose this airplane, so I'm just going to go right into this strip. "

Air Traffic Control sound as recorded on the website can be found at

4:05 p.m. update

The NTSB confirms that one person is dead following the midair collision that left one aircraft submerged in the Susitna River early Wednesday afternoon.

The pilot of the other aircraft involved, a Cessna 175, made an emergency landing at Lake Hood just before 1 p.m. Wednesday. The pilot is reportedly uninjured but shaken up, and has given a preliminary interview to investigators.

3:05 p.m. update

Merrill Field-based Spernak Airways has confirmed that the pilot of the aircraft submerged in the Susitna River is an employee of the company.

A Spernak Airways spokesman told KTUU on Wednesday "Everyone is devastated by this freak accident, and we would just like our space to grieve."

2:30 p.m. update

has been issued by the Federal Aviation Administration over the mouth of the Susitna River where crews are conducting a search and rescue operation for occupants of an aircraft submerged in the river after a reported midair collision.

Original story

A Cessna 175 made an emergency landing at Lake Hood Wednesday afternoon following reports of a midair collision over the Susitna River.

According to Alaska State Troopers, the collision was reported at 12:13 Wednesday afternoon.

Wreckage of one plane was found shortly after, submerged in the waters near the mouth of the Susitna River.

Just before 1 p.m., reports were received of a small aircraft making an emergency landing at Lake Hood in Anchorage with damage to the plane's landing gear.

AST says search and rescue team have been launched and NTSB investigators are on the scene and a preliminary investigation is underway.

According to an NTSB investigator at Lake Hood, the two planes are believed to have collided or nearly collided "nose to nose" in the air.

The pilot of the Cessna 175 at Lake Hood is reportedly uninjured, but shaken up.

One of the aircraft reportedly was en route to or returning to Anchorage from a remote fishing site.

It's currently unknown how many people were on board the other aircraft, or their conditions.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Editor's note: a previous version of this story incorrectly stated the Cessna 175 made an emergency landing at Merrill Field.