The search for a small plane reported overdue to Takotna Monday reached a sad end Tuesday, with officials reporting that all three people on board -- a pilot, mother and daughter -- died in the crash.
AST spokesperson Megan Peters identified the dead as pilot Ted Smith, 59, as well as mother and daughter Carolyn Sorvoja, 48, and Rosemarie Sorvoja, 10. All three were Eagle River residents, and their next of kin have been notified.
"The aircraft was supposed to return to Anchorage to transport additional passengers but failed to arrive by (4 p.m. Monday)," Peters wrote in a Tuesday statement on the crash.
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Brice Banning says the plane was found near Simpson Pass, in the Rainy Pass area. Alaska National Guard spokesperson Kalei Rupp says the discovery of the victims came after the plane was spotted on the ground at 10:22 a.m. by an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crew.
"(Rescuers) extricated the bodies from the wreckage of the plane," Rupp wrote in a Tuesday statement on the crash. "Because of incoming weather and the safety of the site, the Alaska Air National Guard removed the bodies from the scene and is bringing them back to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson where they will be turned over to Alaska State Troopers."
According to Rupp, the Air National Guard committed the HH-60 and an HC-130 search plane to the search for the Cessna 182 Tuesday, with an Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk also participating. Alaska State Troopers also joined the search Tuesday, alongside Civil Air Patrol assets, good Samaritans and members of the Iditarod Air Force -- the network of volunteer pilots who help supply the race.
Iditarod spokesperson Erin McLarnon said Monday that the aircraft wasn’t part of the Iditarod Air Force.
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Brice Banning says the Cessna departed Merrill Field at about 10 a.m. Monday headed for Takotna. Rupp says controllers at Anchorage’s Merrill Field informed the 11th Air Force’s Rescue Coordination Center at about 4 p.m. that afternoon that the plane was expected to land in Takotna at noon, but hadn’t done so.
Airfields near Takotna didn’t report seeing the aircraft, and at 5:50 p.m. Monday an Air National Guard HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter and an HC-130 rescue plane left Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. The two aircraft conducted what Rupp called a “hasty search” for about eight hours before returning to JBER.
“Nothing was spotted, nothing was heard last night,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert Carte, the RCC’s superintendent.
The RCC says one factor complicating search efforts was the pilot’s apparent failure to file a flight plan with the Federal Aviation Administration.
“When pilots file a flight plan with the FAA, the FAA initiates a search for an overdue aircraft typically much sooner than when an aircraft is reported late by family or friends,” Carte said.
Banning says the NTSB plans to visit the crash site along with Cessna representatives, but doesn't have an immediate timetable for the trip.
"We're in the process of making those arrangements right now," Banning said.
The crash comes weeks after a Feb. 17 plane crash in Rainy Pass during the Iron Dog snowmachine race that left two men severely injured. Pilot Robert Stone and former Iron Dog snowmachiner Jason Wichman were following Team 25 racers Aaron Bartel and Brad George, after George had replaced Wichman for the 2013 race, when their plane turned around after takeoff from Pontilla Lake.
Editor's Note: Month corrected in last graph to Feb. instead of Jan.
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