One dead, one injured in plane crash near Utqiagvik

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - One person has died and another was injured in a plane crash that occurred 35 miles south of Utqiagvik late Thursday evening. The plane, a Cessna 185, was chartered, taking University of Alaska Fairbanks Research Assistant Professor Ben Jones to his field site when it crashed.

Director of Government External Affairs for the North Slope Borough, DJ Fauske said search and rescue pilots were able to respond to an emergency beacon call from Jones. By the time search and rescue had made it to the scene of the crash, the pilot of the plane, Jim Webster, had died.

“Given the temperature and location, I don’t know if [Jones] would have survived the night obviously if he had to wait till the morning,” Fauske said.

Jones was taken to a hospital in Utqiagvik with multiple fractures and will receive further care in Anchorage, Fauske said. The two were the only ones on the aircraft and were flying from Fairbanks to Teshekpuk Lake Observatory to service instruments at the site. Jones, who studies changing landscapes due to permafrost, was originally expected to leave Teshekpuk Lake on May 20.

“Mayor Brower really appreciates, given the area and remoteness, that search and rescue was able to fly,” Fauske said. “I know it was extremely foggy last night according to our pilots. I don’t know what the conditions were when the plane crashed.”

Clint Johnson with the National Transportation Safety Board said that the NTSB will be investigating the crash but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, investigators are currently unable to travel to the scene of the accident.

UAF Public Information Officer Marmian Grimes said that researchers from UAF frequently fly out to remote areas to conduct their research.

“When our researchers go out to the field, they have safety plans and things like that and safety equipment,” Grimes said.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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