The weather cleared up Saturday in the Bristol Bay region allowing the Alaska National Guard to recover the bodies of the pilot and copilot that were killed in Friday's cargo plane crash north of Dillingham.
The crew onboard an Air national Guard HH-60 Pavehawk helicopter located the wreckage of the downed Beech 1900 aircraft about 6-am Saturday. Kalei Rupp is a spokeswoman with the Alaska National Guard. KDLG news spoke with her Saturday morning.
"We were able to land nearby. Because of the possible oncoming inclement weather and the terrain the Alaska State Troopers requested that the Alaska National Guard recover the bodies."
The bodies were turned over to the State Medical Examiner's Office and they were identified as 38-year old Jeff Day and 20-year old Neil Jensen. Day was the pilot and Jensen was the co-pilot. They were both from Anchorage. The Ace Air Cargo plane was flying to Dillingham from King Salmon but it never arrived in Dillingham. Instead it dropped off radar around 8:30 Friday morning. A statement from the Alaska State Troopers indicates that the aircraft was flying under instrument flight rules and was cleared to land at the Dillingham Airport. Around 9:15 Friday morning the plane's "Emergency Locator Beacon" began transmitting from a location about 20-miles northeast of Dillingham in the Muklung Hills. Troopers and several volunteers tried to reach the crash site on snowmachines but they were turned around due to poor weather and snow conditions. Rupp say's that's why the Alaska National Guard was called in to assist in the search and rescue effort.
"We serve a civilian search and rescue function in the State of Alaska. We are equipped to search in difficult terrain and our Guardian Angel teams have lots of experience searching in mountainous regions."
Friday's search effort was hampered by a low cloud ceiling and poor visibility. It also snowed much of Friday in the area and that apparently forced caution on the part of emergency responders due to icing conditions. Both the FAA and the NTSB are investigating Friday's plane crash with NTSB taking the lead.