ANCHORAGE, Alaska—A passenger on the plane that crashed west of McGrath Saturday told the National Transportation Safety Board it was in “whiteout conditions” when it slammed into a mountain, killing two people and leaving four others seriously injured.
According to an NTSB preliminary report on the crash, the Inland Aviation Services Inc. Cessna 207 was carrying six people and headed from McGrath to Aniak, the plane’s home base, by way of Anvik.
A family of four survived, including 32-year-old Anvik teachers Don Evans Jr. and Rosemarie Evans, as well as their children Donny Evans III, 10, and McKenzie Evans, 8.
According to NTSB investigator Clint Johnson, visual meteorological conditions with 10 miles of visibility prevailed when the aircraft took off from McGrath. Instrument meteorological conditions were in place along the plane’s flight route.
In the report, Don Evans Jr. told the NTSB he was sitting in the front right seat, next to Chase. About 20 minutes after leaving McGrath, the pilot told him, “This is getting pretty bad.” Moments later, the plane entered whiteout conditions; the next thing the passenger saw was the mountainside appearing out of the fog.
According to the passenger, all of the survivors lost consciousness during the crash and he was the first to come to. He found a SPOT satellite personal tracker he’d noticed attached to Chase’s sun visor while boarding in McGrath, then began to push the emergency SOS button.
Members of Chase’s family in Wasilla said they received alerts from his SPOT device at about 8:30 p.m. and notified authorities, who made a radio search of airports near the flight route before initiating an air search of the route at 8:45 p.m. The Federal Aviation Administration issued an alert notice about the aircraft at 10 p.m.
An Air National Guard C-130 was able to track an analog 121.5 MHz signal from an emergency locator transmitter to a mountainous area, but searchers couldn’t reach the crash site until morning. The injured survivors remained at the site overnight, until the arrival of an ANG HH-60 Blackhawk Sunday morning.
The report says an initial examination of the wreckage revealed no pre-accident problems. While the aircraft was neither carrying nor required to carry a digital 406 MHz ELT, the NTSB says search-and-rescue satellites stopped monitoring analog ELT signals as of Feb. 1, 2009.