Four people on a sightseeing flight through Denali National Park in Alaska are confirmed dead and the fifth is presumed dead after the plane went down last weekend on Thunder Mountain, a ridgeline 14 miles southwest of Denali. The K2 Aviation de Havilland Beaver left Talkeetna Saturday around 5 p.m. and crashed less than hour later.
Steep terrain and poor weather have postponed any attempts at recovery or to get rangers on the ground. National Park Service mountaineering ranger Chris Erickson visited the site on a short-haul line hanging from a helicopter and confirmed the deaths of the four people he could see. The terrain, he said, is “dangerous without a helicopter. To climb there especially this time of year is not really an option. Significant overhead hazard for rockfall and for icefall to try to attempt to climb there. On the scene itself, the airplane is located in a crevasse on the side of a mountain, as well, which complicates things even more so than we thought it might be. It’s very steep in that area. It’s kind of amazing the plane ended up where it did, that we were able to even see it. But it’s just an extremely steep, technical terrain, overhanging to vertical for most of the time there.”
The pilot, Craig Layson, placed two calls via sat phone and reported injuries.
Clint Johnson, the National Transportation Safety Board’s Alaska region chief, said, “Basically, the airplane is partially in a crevasse, which is holding it on the side of the hill. If it lets loose, it’s going to go downhill from there. We’re used to working in remote, challenging areas but this is beyond our scope.”
Photo by National Park Service
The National Park Service has announced it will not retrieve the bodies of five crash victims.
“The crevasse where the wreckage sits is a dangerous and potentially fatal terrain trap should even a small avalanche occur. The aircraft is broken in half behind the wing, and the tail section of the fuselage is actively pulling down the aircraft towards a glacier 3,500 feet below,” park staff said. “Additionally, more than two and a half feet of new snow has fallen at the crash site and loaded the nearly 45-degree slope just above the aircraft.”