UPDATE: 4 dead, 1 missing, presumed dead, in Denali plane crash

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - 5:25 p.m. update:
The Temporary flight restrictions in the area of the crash have been lifted. The National Park Service is waiting for a break in the weather to return to the site of the crash.

10:20 a.m. Update:

Four people on board the plane that crashed near Denali have been found and are confirmed to be dead. A fifth is still missing, though officials say they presume that person to be dead as well.

According to Katherine Belcher, spokesperson for Denali National Park, contact with the wreckage was made Monday morning, despite the treacherous area in which the plane crashed.

A National Park Service ranger was lowered down in a harness to the crash site, roughly 14 miles southwest of the summit of Denali in "extremely technical terrain" on a hanging glacier.

That ranger then dug out the snow and debris from the plane, finding the bodies of four people deceased on board. The fifth person has not been found, but according to Belcher, it is thought that no one survived.

" There were no footprints or disturbances leading away from the site and there were no other signs to indicate any of the passengers made it out of the plane," Belcher said in a statement.

The names of those on board have not been identified so far, as officials are currently trying to inform their family members first. As four of the five on board the plane were reportedly Polish flightseers, it could take longer to inform family out of the country.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

8:00 a.m. Update:

The search will go on early Monday, for a plane that crashed in Denali National Park and Preserve this weekend.

According to a release from the National Parks Service, the plane went down with a pilot and four passengers from Poland aboard. The Polish Consulate in Los Anegeles has been contacted, officials say, but the identity of the passengers, and that of the pilot, has not yet been released.

The plane was reportedly a flightseeing trip for the tourists which took off from Talkeetna, and crashed in the area of Thunder Mountain peak and the surrounding area.

The NPS said that high-altitude helicopter, along with an Air National Guard C-130 and two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters, left early Monday morning to try to reach the crash site. The site was previously inaccessible due to weather and poor visibility.

Original Story:

Officials searching for survivors of a downed plane in Denali National Park are suspending operations until Monday morning as darkness falls and clouds refuse to budge.

Rescuers are treating the crash as if everyone is alive, said David Lee, the owner of Sheldon Air Service, who attended a multi-agency debriefing Sunday evening.

Lee described an ongoing full-scale effort with members of the Alaska State Troopers, the U.S. Army, the Alaska Air National Guard and the National Park Service, who were all in attendance at the meeting.

"This could be the worst aviation disaster on Denali in history,"said the veteran pilot.

The plane, owned and operated by K2 Aviation, crashed sometime after 5 p.m. Saturday with four passengers and a pilot on board. The names and their status has not been released.

Some communication was made with the pilot and the base in Talkeetna but Katherine Belcher, a spokesperson with the National Park Service, says the last successful satellite call took place at 8:35 p.m. Saturday.

Belcher writes that the DeHavilland DHC-2 Beaver is said to be located at around 11,000 feet elevation on an extremely steep knife-edge ridge.

Lee, a commercial pilot with decades of experience, said temperatures likely dropped below zero overnight at that altitude. The people on board the plane will be facing a second night in those conditions, increasing the risk of hypothermia and exposure.

Rescue efforts were made difficult by the weather and low-cloud ceiling on Sunday.

Lee says that crews were able to get within one-fifth of a mile from the crash site Saturday evening after the plane was located by its Emergency Locator Transmitter.

Derek Minemyer & Victoria Taylor contributed to this story



 
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